If you have stage fright, or the anxiety or fear of speaking in public, you aren’t alone. Stage fright or performance anxiety is a natural phenomenon and part of the human flight or fight instinct to keep us from getting hurt. The good news is that one can completely overcome stage fright. Here are some tips to help you overcome stage fright when singing, debating or acting etc.
1. Understand the symptoms of a stage fright
You feel anxious, your throat tightens up, you start sweating, you forget all that you have memorized, your knees and legs feel weak-you feel as if you are going to faint. Your heart literally explodes, your mind keeps replaying past failures and every part of you is asking you to run. Worry not-many top actors and actresses have experienced similar symptoms of stage fright including Barbra Streisand, Mel Gibson and Jesse Eisenberg.
2. Know what causes stage fright
Common causes of stage fright are inadequate preparation, past failures and self perceived communication issues. Once you identify your internal and external causes of stage fright, you can learn techniques to overcome them.
3. Plan well
One of the first prerequisites of public speaking (or singing, playing the piano or acting) is to plan well. Read, rehearse and repeat your speech until you can say it in your sleep! Secondly, you need to know your audience-you may know your subject well but until you are up there and speaking, you will never gauge your audience. Adequate planning will help ensure that you perform to the maximum of your potential.
Listen to your voice when you rehearse your presentation or speech. Play it back. This will help you understand how you sound. The services of a speech trainer can also come in handy –so if you are really serious about public speaking, invest in training. Sometimes, people do not realize that they are speaking too softly when they are presenting or when they are on stage. It is very important that your audience can hear you properly. SO do a sound check. Slow, Loud and Clear is the mantra. Take a sip of water if needed. Make sure you are understood.
4. Know your own strengths and weaknesses
Successful public speaking comes from an understanding of principles of spoken communication. Once you identify your weaknesses and strengths you can also perceive your audience’s needs. Try and speak before friends or family members. This will help you make changes.
5. Focus on breathing
Practice deep breathing –your mind is deeply connected to your breath. The longer and deeper your breath, the calmer your mind. Deep diaphragmatic breaths can help you stay mindful and avoid thoughts about past failures.
6. Change your perspective
Your heart is thumping; you can feel nervousness take over you. Tell yourself how exciting it is that you are presenting! Know that everyone gets nervous from time to time. Focus on the task ahead instead of thinking of past failures.
7. Warm up
Do a bit of stretches, tongue twisters, spot jogging, some mouth exercises etc before your presentation. You can also give the presentation to your colleague or a friend or family member before going on stage. Knowing that you are well prepared is a big step in preventing the effects of stage fright.
8. Stay mindful
Break up your performance/speech/presentation into tiny tasks. Get over each task and move onto the next one. Concentrate and focus only on the small task and deliver it to your best ability. As you complete each small task and move on to the next, you will automatically feel more confident.When your mind is focused on each task at hand, there is no room for it to play negative thoughts or tell you that you are going to fail. In case of acting, focus on other actors on the stage.
9. Maintain eye contact
The audience likes to see you looking at them. Your influence will diminish considerably if they perceive you to be talking over their heads. Maintaining eye contact can also help you see their body language.
10. Use visual aids and technology wisely
If you are giving a presentation, then get as creative and imaginative as you possibly can to support and enhance what you are speaking. A thumb rule to use when it comes to visual aids: less is more. The tools you use should cover the visual, hearing and feeling elements.
11. Respect the local culture
When presenting to a culturally diverse audience or an overseas client, use their language to apologize that you are not presenting in their language. Many websites will help you speak these few sentences in the local language. Ensure in advance that your audience knows you will be presenting in English. That done; a brief light hearted apology in their language at the beginning of your presentation will help you win them over.
12. Practice practice and practice
Preparation is the key to overcome symptoms of stage fright. When you practice your speech a thousand times, you will relax in the knowledge that you will be confidently speaking without fear. Prepare so you can relax during the task.