If you have just taken on a job that requires you to speak before a crowd or make a presentation before a group of peers, and you have always suffered from stage fright, fear not; in this blog post we offer up a few tips on how to rise to the challenge and meet your goals, regardless of the size or nature of your crowd:
- See the Positive Side to Fear: Some argue that the intense fear many speakers can feel before a public speech (symptoms include a racing heartbeat, anxiety and going blank) reflects narcissism, in that the speaker may assume that all eyes of the world are on them and that what they communicate is an issue of great importance. In fact, the opposite may be true. In her book, Dance with Fear, clinical psychologist and best-selling author, Dr. Harriet Lerner, PhD., takes a whole other view: “I have come to view speech anxiety as a sign of fundamental integrity… those of us who face our audiences with weak knees and fluttering innards understand too well the essential humanity that we share with our audiences. We know in our bones that we are no better or more involved that the people who sit before us, yet we are no being invited to pretend that.” To face an audience even when we know that the situation demands us to be infallible, is an act of great courage.
- Honor Your Mistakes: Instead of castigating yourself every time you make an error while making a speech, embrace your imperfection; addressing your mistakes with humor before an audience an excellent way of connecting with them, and highlighting the fact that although you may be speaking on a subject which you are knowledgeable on, you are no more perfect than they are. You may be surprised at how many members of your audience also suffer from stage fright.
- Be Realistic – The Worst-Case Scenario May Actually Happen: Stage fright is in many ways similar to some of the difficult challenges in life, including quitting addictive substances or smoking, for which psychologists will often recommend cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy espouses that what we think affects the way we behave, but the how we behave also affects they way we perceive people and. Sometimes, the only way to rid oneself of fears and phobias is by immersing oneself in the feared activity various times, until the mind begins to perceive a once-threatening situation in a more positive light. When you get up on a podium and address an audience various times, you discover that sometimes, all goes smoothly while other times, you can fumble your way through a speech, regardless of how well you may have prepared beforehand. Once you begin to see that ‘bad days’ are as part and parcel of the experience of public speaking as ‘good days’ are, making the odd error ceases to be such a punishment.
- Build Rapport with Your Audience from the Beginning: If you can get a chuckle out your audience in the first three minutes, you know you’re on to a good thing. Receiving their warmth will significantly reduce your anxiety and make major faux pas much more unlikely.
- Don’t speak for too long: Although you may be speaking on a matter that means a great deal too you, bear in mind that your audience’s interest levels may wane if you harp on for longer than you need to convey your message.
- Don’t be Too Dogmatic: Present the conclusions from your research but allow the audience to make their own decisions on points as well; leaving a few topic open will allow for interesting discussion between yourself and the audience during an engaging, post-speech Q & A session.
- Believe in What You are Saying: Sometimes, regardless of how well you have prepared a speech, you audience will not feel like listening to you. This is why ultimately, what is of greatest value is believing in the value of what you have to share, and speaking with sincerity on the topic, rather than trying to elicit a particular response from your audience.
- Be Prepared to be Unprepared: If your audience begins asking questions you cannot answer on the spot, be honest, tell them that you need to research further on the matter. If possible, follow up their question a day or two later with a quick blog post or e-mail.
THANKS Melissa for sharing your article! Some people say that public speaking is almost as bad as dying! You’ve given us some concrete ideas to start with and SPEAK UP!! — the editor