It does not matter how many years you have trained your public speaking skills. There is one thing we all have – and always will have – in common. Stage fright. If you would not go as far as labeling it “stage fright”, you will still very likely agree that there is a little bit of nervousness crawling up in you before your speeches. Am I right?
And that is totally fine. Being nervous shows that your talk is important to you. You want to deliver quality content. Great! I have read heaps of articles about managing stage fright, listened to public speaking “gurus” and studied Toastmasters International manuals on this topic*. I am sure that some of my lessons learned will be beneficial for you as well. That is why I would love to share how I personally minimize nervousness before my speeches with you today.
What triggers nervousness/ stage fright in us?
There are the common triggers: The fear of failure, the fear of the unknown or the fear of looking incompetent in front of others. But when it comes to public speaking I have identified various further funny fears our minds create: The fear of forgetting your text, the fear of boring your audience or the fear of blushing. One client even told me that she faces the fear of breaking her high heels on stage.
How do we know that we are nervous?
Some people start to speak incredibly fast, some individuals totally stop speaking before they go on stage. I met human beings who start to blush, some characters turn pale. Some people need to rush to the bathroom. Sweaty palms, butterflies in your stomach, an increased heart rate, a dry throat, maybe even a slight shivering in your hands and/or knees. I know what you are going through… and once again: That is absolutely ok.
What can we do against it?
Do not blame yourself for experiencing these body sensations. Acknowledge them and then start working on your situation. The following three techniques perfectly work for me.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
I know it is time-consuming. I am aware that you perceive your speech planning as annoying and that you live a busy life. But without proper preparation your talk will not be as impactful as it could be. The best way to reduce nervousness is to practice your speech.
Get up 30 minutes earlier and write down your talk. Polish it until it is great and train it. Over and over again. In front of your family, friends, colleagues. At your Toastmasters Club. Also ask someone to film your speech so that you can have a look at it and get rid of quirks/paragraphs, which are not flattering. This will boost your self-confidence.
If you do not have friends, family or any groups nearby – e.g. when you are on a business trip – talk to an indoor plant, a wall, anything. I want you to talk and to perform your speech. Only writing it down and reading it a few times will not help as much as properly training it.
Visualize your success
The mind is a fascinating tool. Various studies came to the conclusion that vividly imagined pictures and scenarios are saved as memories in our minds. Our brain apparently cannot differentiate between a colorfully created image and an actual experience. Interesting… How can we make use of that?
I visualize my speeches – from the very beginning until the very end. I imagine what I would see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Try it! Close your eyes and visualize the following:
The MC stunningly introduces you. The audience applauds. You start to feel your heart beating faster. You deeply breathe in a few times and self-confidently walk up to the stage – with a big smile on your face. Yes! You speak clearly and remember all points. The audience laughs and loves your performance. In the end the crowd claps enthusiastically. The MC comes back, shakes your hand and you proudly walk back behind the stage.
How did that exercise make you feel? The majority of my clients say it helps them a lot.
Breathe & relax
Everyone who regularly does yoga and/or meditates knows that our bodies and minds are connected. This means that our thoughts (which will be all over the place in the above described scenario for the majority of us) affect the physical body and vice versa. So why don’t we calm down the mind, which will automatically result in less tension in the body?
There are heaps of meditation and breathing exercises out there. When you have found your favorite one, go for it. Practice it for five minutes. Behind the stage or in a separate room.
For those who have never experimented with breath work before, type in “balancing breath” into youtube and watch a few short tutorials. It may feel a bit odd in the beginning but I can guarantee: You will feel reenergized and so much more balanced after a short meditation exercise.
A few last thoughts
What do you do to reduce your nervousness/ stage fright before delivering a speech? Let me know! I always love to hear from you.
*”Controlling your Fear” (Item 272A) helped me the most. I also used it as the foundation for this article.