Or as Jerry Seinfeld brilliantly noticed, commenting on US national surveys that show that fear of public speaking ranks among Americans’ top dreads (surpassing fear of illness, fear of flying, fear of terrorism, and often the fear of death itself): “In other words, at a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”
For many people, fear of public speaking is the number one fear. But what really matters here… are you one of those who would like to know some strategies on how to cope with the stage fear?
If so, here are some tips on how to deal with it.
If you know your content, your confidence will be much higher. You will feel more relaxed and credible – and as a result will be more convincing.
Even if you are not an expert on the content that you are delivering, it surely helps to be prepared, learn main information that you are presenting (and a bit extra information on the topic), and practice your speech before the moment to deliver it comes.
2. Get rid of the adrenaline
The cause of our anxiety, shakiness, unclear thinking and feeling of stress is fight-or-flight mechanism caused by adrenalin rushing through our body. Therefore, easiest way to deal with this stress is to get it out of your system in pure physical way.
If you have a chance to do it discreetly before the speech, do a few quick jumps or strong claps – that way you will throw out excessive energy that comes from fight-or-flight reaction and that makes you feel stressed.
If you need to be more discreet, grasp something with your hands and press it strongly (it can be anything from market to book or to your other hand) – just make sure to let it go before you start your presentation.
And don’t forget to breathe!
When stressed, we often forget to breathe. That puts our body under ever more stress, as our body starts to feel even more uncomfortable due to lack of oxygen.
Also, we tighten up our muscles and stiffen our body – causing body to feel even more in danger and making breathing and circulation even more difficult.
Three to five long deep relaxed breaths will solve both of these issues.
Breathe in a way that each exhale lasts twice as long as inhale – while inhaling, count to 4, and while exhaling, count to 8.
4. Identify what you are afraid of….and attack it directly
One of the ways to deal with this is to prepare in advance a short mantra that you will be saying to yourself (not out loud, of course) about why you are the best person to deliver this speech. Eg, it can be something like “No one knows this topic better than me.”, “They are all here to hear what I have to say.”, “Every sentence that I say makes me more confident”, or anything similar that works for you and makes you feel more confident.
If their looks are what seems most scary, try looking at them in the “third eye” (place on the forehead, in between the eyes) instead of looking directly in the eyes. They wont notice the difference, and it will be much easier for you.
Another often mentioned advice is to imagine your audience naked or on the toilet (I do must admit I haven’t tried this one myself) – this is supposed to work really well if audience frightens you with their authority or huge amount of knowledge or experience.
- Forgetting your speech
This is actually fear of being at stage and saying nothing at all – feeling watched, and judged. One way of dealing with it is to practice exactly that – stand in front of the audience, try to be silent for 3,5,7, seconds and see how it feels. Slow your thoughts down and learn that there is nothing to be afraid of.
- If you really forget it
In case you need a bit more time, you can buy around 10 seconds without having to say a word. Ten seconds is A Lot of time.
If you manage to remember and proceed with your story within that time, chances are that they’ll never notice a thing.
Easiest way of buying some time is to smile, breathe, make a pause. What seems like a minute to a presenter, it is just couple of seconds to the audience. So, don’t hesitate to use that time. Repeat the last line and again pause, nod, smile, and breathe. Or add on couple of more sentences regarding the same last point that you described already. If appropriate, ask your audience “What do YOU think will happen next?”
If you cant remember what was the exact part that follows, just skip it (of course, if content allows for that) and continue to the part that you know.
Remember, the trouble isn’t that you forgot some detail of your presentation. It can happen to any of us. The trouble is the fear of forgetting, that makes us freeze.
If you really cannot remember….Smile, and admit it. Perhaps you will drop couple of points that you wanted to say, but at least you will keep good, human connection with the audience.
If you remember later on what is that you forgot to say it, try to embed it in the later part of the presentation. But, do so only if it shows to be convenient and fits into that part, and if you really think that it is an important part of the whole story.
5. Deal with physical give-aways
If you have a dry mouth, visualize lemon being squeezed and dripping the juice. It will cause more saliva to be produced in your mouth.
If you feel your hands trembling, put them together (push one against other) – but try to open them up again as soon as you feel that they stopped trembling.
If your legs are trembling, make sure to balance your weight evenly on both legs, putting your feet parallel to each other and in width of your hips, and keeping balanced position. Make sure that you don’t walk around nervously.
6. Focus on a story or content, and enjoy it
Try to think less of what will your audience think, and focus more on the content that you are trying to deliver. Why is it important? Why are you excited about it? How can you make sure that you deliver it in the most interesting, impactful, colorful way?
Get into the story, and you will forget all about the “mean” audience or any other fears.
Smiling will relax your muscles and let endorphins kick in, causing you to feel much more positive and confident.
It will also cause reaction from the audience – you will appear closer, warmer, more human and charming, building connection with people around you more easily.