4 Secrets to Overcoming Stage Fright that May Be Easier than You Think

Posted by Bridget Beirne
August 10, 2016

bridget-beirne-1.pngIt's been a while since we've discussed that big elephant in the room of nearly every presentation: stage fright, or public speaking anxiety. If you're one of the MANY who struggle with this fear, you're probably always on the look-out for something that will help.

Trust me, I get it.

Here are a few secrets you might not know that are easier than you think. Some require a change of mindset, some a change of action. Give them a try and see what helps.

1. Stop trying to "overcome" it: I realize that may sound like a cop out after the title of this post, but hear me out. One truth about overcoming stage fright — there's no magic bullet to make it go away entirely. When you burden yourself with the pressure of having to overcome or conquer something like that, you can lock yourself in a loop: "Why am I feeling nervous? I shouldn't be feeling nervous! I have to stop this. I have to stop being afraid right now. Why can't I make it stop?!"

Break that mental cycle with some quick word replacement: you need to "handle" or "deal with" or "work with" your performance anxiety. It's a lot easier to think of various exercises and processes as tools to help you handle something, rather than a panacea that may (or may not) work. It takes you from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

2. Take what you can get! When we struggle with stage fright, we might try to avoid public speaking in any form as much as possible. Instead, embrace even the smallest moment as an opportunity for improvement. Take any chance you can to speak in front of others, whether it's your Monday meeting, a religious service, or a PTA gathering. Use those overcoming-stage-fright-2.pngmoments to practice and experiment — try out skills you're working on, and address stumbling blocks. 

3. Develop a note-taking system that you can believe in: Everyone has a different style of presentation notes. Some people like an outline; some prefer a few keywords. Some like to include their notes in a presentation program; some prefer a sheet of paper. Whatever it is, find the system that works for you. Make sure your notes are clear, easy to read, and helpful to you — not in a style someone else thinks is best. Decide what works, and use those notes during your Rehearsal Process.

How does this help you deal with stage fright? When you've got a "safety net" system that you can trust, you can take a breath and know that you're not out there alone. Speaking of taking a breath:

4. Breathe: Recently, I was in the room while one of our fabulous trainers worked one-on-one with a client getting ready for a big presentation. The client sat down with our trainer, and was rambling in fear about presentation concerns. The trainer listened, and every now and again, he would gently say "Stop - breathe," and would do a quick core breathing exercise with the speaker.

As we knew it would, it calmed the speaker down. That basic core breathing tells your body that it's not in mortal danger. Even by the speaker's own admission, it helped immensely. She could get out of her head, and get ready to give a confident presentation. Don't underestimate the power of simply breathing through it.

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