Stage Fright: Joanne’s Frequently Asked Questions
September 8th, 2014
What tips seem to work most often?
Stage fright happens at three different times.
- In advance, when you are preparing your presentation:
- Procrastination is a form of stage fright, just in advance. Procrastination not only does not get the presentation written, it also does not get rid of stage fright. Just sit down and get the content written and move on to what you need to do next to get the presentation done.
- It is HOW you put together the presentation that helps eliminate stage fright both in advance and later while you are presenting. If you have control over your content, you will not feel as nervous or worry about forgetting.
- Use a format or outline that you feel confident about
- Select visuals that both capture the interest of the audience as well as remind you of what you need to say
- On the day of, while you are waiting for your turn to speak:
- Practice the opening 1-3 sentences in your mind so you know you can get up and start speaking with confidence.
- Hold your body with good posture and strong body language. Look confident, even before you get up to speak.
- Take notes on what the preceding speaker or introducer is saying. Just the act of writing helps you use your nervous energy.
- Approach the speaking spot (podium or front of room or whatever) with strong, confident strides. Stand and walk tall.
- While you are speaking:
- Notice when stage fright hits you. Tell yourself you are in control.
- Do not tell the audience you are nervous. That might make you feel better, but it makes the audience aware that you are nervous and makes them feel sorry for you.
- Use strong, dynamic hand and arm gestures while you speak. This uses your nervous energy and keeps your body from the jitters. Tense your arm and hand muscles.
- If you lose your place, just finish the sentence quickly, skip over that part you can’t remember, and get to the next part you feel confident about or remember.
What are the main symptoms of stage fright?
Stage fright presents itself differently in different people. It ranges from invisible where the audience cannot tell if someone is nervous, to complete collapse by the speaker where the audience feels sorry for the speaker and they all wish it were over and done with!
The most common symptoms of stage fright are:
blanking out and forgetting what you are going to say, sweaty hands, coughing while you are speaking, shaking hands and shaking knees, feeling like you are going to faint, laughing while you are speaking, stuttering or stumbling over words, reading your notes when you really know what you are talking about, halting or slow voice, not being able to see the audience even though you are looking straight at them, not looking at the audience at all, holding onto the podium with tight fists for “dear life”, walking or pacing too much while you are talking, talking too fast, talking too slowly, not being able to sleep or eat the day of or the day before, sleeping or eating too much the same day or day before, generally having the jitters or a nervous feeling all day and during the speech, avoiding writing and preparing the presentation, procrastinating the preparing or rehearsing, rehearsing too much or rehearsing too little, . . .
As you can see, there are so many symptoms – and each person can have several of these simultaneously or can always have the same one symptom each time.
What main advice would you give to somebody who suffers from stage fright?
You CAN manage your stage fright. You will never quite rid yourself of it completely – and that is good. If you get nervous, that means you really care about how well you do – if you do not care, you will not be nervous – and you will not deliver a great presentation! So don’t let it ruin your day, use the energy to propel you to greatness!