Stage fright is a nuisance. Though we will never get rid of it completely, there are solid ways to deal with it. Here are five of them.
1. Accept. So, here’s the situation we all know. Your presentation is about to start. Your hands become sweaty, your thinking blurry, your pulse runs like a ferret in your chest. What now? – The first step is simple: Accept the state you’re in. Don’t lament. Don’t surpress. Don’t deny. Accept that you are nervous. It is perfectly normal. In this situation, most people are like that. Don’t waste your energy on fighting against it – you’ll just become more shaky or even start to panic. It is only after your acceptance that you can work on modifying your state.
2. Connect. Don’t picture your audience naked. No professional speaker acts like that. It’s just confusing and builds up a wall. Instead, embrace your audience! Reach out and connect as soon as possible. A small step is enough. Try to create a shared situation, for example by simply asking if everyone can hear you well or by thankfully pointing out to a talk everyone attended before. Even with little practice you’ll get an reassuring feedback from your audience. You’ll see.
3. Prepare. Prepare your talk as good as possible. Most importantly, strive to know much more than what you end up talking about. You’ll feel much safer and you can improvise more easily when you have an arsenal of backup-knowledge at hand. Know loads, present less. This gets along perfectly with the most important general advice for presentations: Keep things simple. Your audience will be very thankful and you won’t lose track easily of what you want to say.
4. Swing in. Don’t be alone before your talk and cower and stare at your anxiety. Instead, talk to some friends, try to joke (and even to fail), sing, dance, order a drink, chat with some stranger, go to the restroom and make the most silly and outrageous gestures you can invent – including (highly recommended) rising your arms as if you’d won a championship. Then take this energy and rush up on the stage. What you’ll feel up there will be the aftermath of something pleasant and you’ll begin with much more sway.
5. Breathe. In case everything else fails, take some time and – breathe. On stage, we’re just like an animal, you know, unprotected in the open. Be kind to it, be soothing. What causes your nervousness was made for a more primordial situation than a speech: to prepare the body to fight or flee. Unfortunately, what is given to the body is taken from the brain, to the point of blacking out. So, talk gently to your stone-age body by breathing slowly. For five minutes, breath in and out, and in and out, and bring that blood back to your 21st century brain.
For more advice about nervousness and other aspects of giving a presentation, contact us. We are are happy to share our experience as presenters, teachers and stand-up comedians.