Your brain probably works extremely well until you stand up to make a speech.
Jerry Seinfeld says that the person delivering the eulogy would rather be the guy in the coffin. If it’s any comfort, though, many famous people have suffered from stage fright, including Adele, Andrea Bocelli, Laurence Olivier, Rihanna, and Barbra Streisand.
Stage fright is arguably one of the most common anxieties. But it can be conquered. Here are some tips:
- Do not try to repress your inner critic. You know, the one who says, “You’re stupid; You’re going to embarrass yourself; Remember when you flubbed the poetry reading in 6th grade?” etc. This voice is not you, so let it have its say, and then let it go.
- Embrace the anxiety by channeling nervous energy into performance power. Force the butterflies in your stomach into formation.
- Take heart, you will appear more confident than you may feel. If your hands shake, let ‘em. The audience won’t notice. Ditto for a pounding heart.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. The more familiar you are with the subject matter, the more confident you will feel.
- Winston Churchill said it would take him five minutes for a speech that lasts all day, and all day to prepare for a speech that lasts five minutes.
- Concentrate on your expertise: After all, you know what you’re talking about. Isn’t that why you’re delivering the speech in the first place?
- Breathe deeply, from the diaphragm, to lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
- Tense up all your muscles, then release them. Yawn. Roll your head around. (Don’t do this in front of the audience! Retreat to a private space instead.)
- If you fumble, just move on. Even the most fluid actors forget their lines and stammer occasionally.
- When James Earl Jones prepared for his role as the hulking brute Lenny in “Of Mice and Men,” he visited a center for the mentally challenged and actually took psychological tests in costume and in character — in a way that fooled the grad student who administered them. Afterwards, the young man told his professor that they should commit the actor because the results showed tendencies toward violence! That’s what I call preparation.
One last pointer: Bear in mind that the audience wants you to triumph, not fizzle. Remember that as you look out at their faces.
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