Imagine losing a job, or a mega million contract, just because of stage fright. Imagine flunking that presentation you’ve been preparing for all these while because you couldn’t get your lips to say what you believe was in your head. Imagine what it will be like fainting on the stage before a great number of viewers.
Well, you are not alone. Stage fright happens to everyone. You only need to learn how to manage yours to conquer it.
I’ve heard people saying that there are those that were born without stage fright. I don’t really know how true this is because I’m yet to see any of them. I know that some people are more outspoken and bold, naturally, but that doesn’t mean they could stand before a crowd without those butterflies fluttering about. The only thing I know is that when someone starts from a tender age to hold the stage, he may not really know what stage fright is because he learnt how to manage it early.
When I say stage here, I’m not just talking about the raised platform where people had to stand and face a crowd. Stage here means anywhere you are that exposes you to the attention of others. Your audience could be just one or a million persons. It could be your juniors, your peers or your superiors. It could be someone that is same sex with you or not. Your audience can also be strangers or your close associates. What really matters here is that you have the full attention of somebody who waits to hear you talk.
I believe that the cause of stage fright is the fear of making mistakes. You are just afraid you will make a mess of yourself and be booed. Or maybe you are afraid that people will not like or agree with what you were going to say. Whatever it is, you just felt you are not good enough to be out there.
The different signs of stage fright, which I believe everyone that has been there knows, include:
1. Shortness of breath
2. Butterflies in the guts
3. Blurred vision
4. Pressure to use the bathroom
5. Dizzy spell
6. Shaky voice
7. Blank memory (lol)
8. Loss of words (of course your memory went blank)
9. Incoherent utterances
11. Making silly jokes and laughing at the silly jokes
12. Inaudible utterances
13. Extra brisk walk
14. Fidgeting and non-relaxed posture
15. Increased and unsteady heartbeat
16. Higher pitch in the voice
Well, these are just some of the signs that will tell you that you are stage fright. So, you may need to relax and let it go before it messes you up.
Before you get on that stage, I’ll like you to bear the following in mind:
i. Nobody knows it all. So don’t be afraid when you are going to face people that have deeper knowledge than you. In other words, always remember that you have something new to add to the existing knowledge. And you want this people to learn about it.
ii. Everyone is capable of making mistakes. I’m stating this here because sometimes, the fear of making mistakes can mess up our presentations. So, remember that you are human, and so are your audience. If you are capable of making mistakes, so can they. In other words, they will definitely bear with your mistakes.
iii. There is Day 1 for everything. This has always been my slogan each time I want to encourage people to go out there and show what they are capable of. The logic behind this motto is that you shouldn’t be surprised when you make mistakes on your first attempt. All you should be concerned about is learning from your mistakes and making necessary adjustments. So, on your first day of facing an audience, remember you are just a rookie and will be perfect as you continue with the job.
iv. It is not possible that everybody will like your performance or idea. Make up your mind to receive lots of criticism – both constructive and illogical ones.
v. There is nothing like a perfect presentation. Just be yourself and don’t copycat. In fact, make yours unique.
vi. Stage fright is natural. It happens to everyone that holds the stage. So yours isn’t out of place.
vii. That time you have the stage, it is yours to manage as you deem fit. But put your type of audience, occasion and time allotment into consideration.
Alright, so here’s the main thing that brought us here – how to send that fear out of the way when it comes.
a. Prepare your speech early. Please, don’t cram everything you will say there because it will make you sound like a machine (and if you forget a word…., well you know the rest). What you have to do is write down what you will like to talk about and mark off the keywords in them. You may need to jot down those keywords so you can refer to them as a guide.
b. Practice the speech delivery in the comfort of your home. Face a mirror, pretend that you are the audience, and talk to yourself. Be sure to look yourself in the eyes as you do so. When you are confident enough, get someone else to listen to you.
c. If you are called to come forward to talk, get up and deliberately walk in calculated steps towards the stage – don’t rush it. These actions have a way of building up your confidence and making your audience feel ‘subdued’ by your presence. It will also send away dizziness, blurred vision and quickened heartbeat. Take it easy and slow.
d. Don’t talk immediately you got to the stage. Take some seconds (not longer than ten seconds, please) to let your eyes roam over the heads of the crowd. This will give you some time to take some deep breaths and to quieten your heart that wants to jump out of its cage. Remember to smile to the audience as you do this. Whether they smile back at you or scowl at you, just remember you are already there and most do what you came for.
e. When you start talking, deliberately bring down the pitch of your voice and start slowly. This will help you to sound calculated and more confident, even to yourself. In other words it will make you feel in control. Gushing out words can make you sound incoherent and make your voice shake.
f. It is good to maintain eye contact so you can engage your audience. But you need to be strong to do this because you may meet sneering and scowling faces and get discouraged. And it will be improper to just focus on one person or area. Keep your eyes moving from one face to the other and ensure that you bring everybody onboard, unless you are actually addressing one particular person. If you are so uncomfortable looking into people’s eyes, look over their heads. In fact, admire their hairs and head gears and you will see reasons to look into eyes (don’t laugh at this but it is possible that you may see one spectacular hairstyle or head gear and will want to know the owner).
g. If you are not good with telling good jokes, please leave off jokes. Dry jokes sound silly. And when people don’t laugh at your joke, you feel fidgety. So, stick more to examples, instances, facts and figures.
h. If the butterflies in your stomach wouldn’t just go before you started talking, report them to the audience so they can laugh them away. This trick works if you learn how to use it. It will automatically make you relaxed and more confident. But remember it is not in every occasion that you will employ it.
i. If your voice gets shaky as you talk, stop and take a deep breath. When you want to start again, start slowly. Don’t ignore or wish the shaking away because it will get more pronounced. Talking slowly will help to reduce the rate of your heart beat and the shortness of breath that accompany the shaky voice. By the time your breath and heartbeat are normalised, your voice will follow suit.
j. When you want to leave the stage, please don’t trot. You are not running anywhere even if you have an emergency meeting to attend. Walk slowly and majestically back to your seat, relax a little and then go out for some fresh air. You truly need it (lol).
Now you are good to go. Remember, everyone has stage fright, you can only learn how to manage yours. So, go out there and conquer.