Have you ever been in front of a class or a meeting and suddenly your mouth goes dry, your pulse starts to race, you’re breathing fast, and your throat tightens up so you can hardly talk? Chances are it happens before you actually get on stage, while you’re waiting in the wings, the anxiety mounts, especially if you’re new to being in front of an audience. That is stage fright. And it’s pretty common!
What Kind of People Get Stage Fright
For some people, the anxiety never really goes away even with practice, and even when it looks like they’re smooth as silk up there. Inside, they’re quaking. That anxiety drives a lot of professional performers to drink and drugs to help numb the pain of it. So professional performers often have some amount of stage fright or performance anxiety, even though looking at them you could never tell.
Personalities with stage fright range from perfectionists, to people with social anxiety, from people who need to be liked to those who fear being vulnerable. Performance anxiety drives people with low self esteem, as well as those who have to feel in control. Stage fright can be fear of failure, but it can just as surely be fear of success!
If you’re new to being in front of a crowd, it’s pretty normal to have stage fright and performance anxiety. And many people live with painfully low self-esteem, fear of negative judgement, and may make a “false” self for the world to see and validate.
Unfortunately, this false self is not only a barrier for pain, it’s also a barrier for pleasure, so we recommend authenticity and being yourself. Being yourself is always the answer.
Other Strategies for Stage Fright
In addition to preparing well, and practicing your presentation, you can also do some other things to help your body through the “flight or fight” adrenaline rush that’s taking your breath away.
- Arrive early. Get yourself acclimatized to the surroundings, and check all the materials you need for your presentation are available and working.
- Do the Empath Stretch from Empatharian. This is a simple set of 12 movements designed to help the body focus, relax, and energize. It takes about 5 minutes to do all the stretches that bring your mind and body into balance
- Remember to breathe. Breathing is major! There are different breathing techniques for stimulating and waking you up, and letting go of tension.
- Imagine your audience: doing the Empath Stretch will help to connect with the audience with empathy and understanding. Imagine them friends.
While You’re Talking Strategies
- Take it nice and slow, don’t rush yourself.
- If you’re still feeling nervous, it’s fine to say so. Maybe there’s a funny story about what you were imagining might happen with this audience. (Nice to start with a story and humor.)
- If you make a mistake or drop a stitch, probably the audience won’t notice anyway. Just circle back to smooth it out, or go on with the talk. Stopping to point out mistakes doesn’t help the audience to catch your drift, it distracts them from the purpose of your talk. So just talk.
- Use your body and gesture to bring the audience in non-verbally. Your straight posture, your dignity, expresses respect for the audience, and desire for them to move along with you, in thought and deed.
- Focus on your talk and the audience’s benefits from your presentation. Find some passion and excitement about it, and create that intention to deliver the audience some of that as well.
- Lastly, make eye contact with some friendly faces in the audience, and keep coming back to them. The presentation of whatever material you’re presenting will be heard and understood based on your helping the audience feel relaxed, and helping them to interact with the material somehow.
- Enjoy the time on stage. After the first excruciating five minutes, it’ll be a piece of cake. Remember to stop and breathe, to give people time to assimilate.
At the end of your presentation:
- Congratulate your audience on being a great receptive audience, if they were. If not, make sure and get some written feedback from them so you step up the game for next time!
- Think of yourself as a facilitator of learning. It’s the audience’s job to do the learning, you are just the facilitator.