Every day, thousands of people experience stage fright—CEOs, politicians, lawyers, volunteers, students—it’s unlikely you will ever meet someone who hasn’t experienced nervousness and stage fright at some level. Stage fright has been around forever and these days it’s getting harder to simply avoid it. Like it or not, more and more people find public speaking playing an important role in their personal and professional lives. The ability to be comfortable when speaking in front of others may very well be critical to your future success.
In a previous video, I outlined four strategies for controlling nervousness and overcoming stage fright. Three of the four were skills that require practice to implement. I still recommend and teach them. In this video, I’d like to suggest three strategies you can use right away to reduce nervousness when you have to speak in front of a group, no training required.
The first strategy is a carryover from the previous list because it’s so critical. Rehearse. Much of the anxiety experienced at the beginning of a speech stems from unfamiliarity with your performance, and the realization that you’re not as prepared as you thought you were. Your voice sounds strange in the room. Words that looked good on paper feel wrong coming out of your mouth. Transitions from one point to the next seem abrupt and too obvious. If the actual performance is your first experience of the speech, no wonder it’s nerve-wracking. When you’ve been through the presentation several times, you know how it sounds, how it feels, how it flows. You’re on familiar ground, and that increases confidence more than you might imagine.
Format your notes so they actually help you. Many speakers attempt to use notes that are suitable for reading but not for performing. The font size is too small and there are large dense blocks of text on the page. That makes it hard to see and it’s easy to lose your place, so you feel pressured and anxious. Create at-a-glance formatting for your notes, large fonts (at least 14 point) and lots of white space separating the text. Make it ridiculously easy to spot the critical information and virtually impossible to lose your place. When the text leaps off the page you’ll feel much more relaxed and confident in performance.
Maintain focus. Acute nervousness is a sign you’re focused on the wrong thing, yourself, instead of getting your message to those listeners. That puts you into defensive mode rather than giving mode. The performance is not about you. Yes, you may be at the front of the room. You may be the only one speaking. You may indeed be the center of attention, but ultimately it’s not about you. It’s about your audience. They have to get the message, or the entire exercise is a waste of time. Maintain a determined focus on the real task and nervousness will become faint background noise.
We’ve all experienced nervousness and fear with public speaking. Many people have travelled this road before you and were able to overcome stage fright. They didn’t get there by avoiding it. They got there by taking clear, deliberate and manageable action. Rehearsing, formatting your notes and maintaining focus are three easy strategies to help you reduce speech anxiety, manage nervousness effectively and one day actually overcome the fear of public speaking.
For more information related to overcoming stage fright, visit voice and speech dot com, and while you’re there, enroll in the free video mini course, “The Sound of Success”