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Coping With Stage Fright



When you are asked to speak in front of a group – whether it is six people or hundreds of people do, you get nervous? If you answered yes, you are in good company. Stage fright is a normal, natural reaction and even helpful – once you learn to use it to your advantage instead of your destruction.

In fact, if you ever entirely get over that feeling of nervousness and anticipation as a speaker, you have lost an edge as a presenter. What happens to us when we have stage fright is the same fight or flight syndrome the caveman experienced when he found himself in a life or death situation. Adrenaline is released into the system as a result of physical or emotional stress, causing extra activation of the body. Some of the bodily reactions are: an increase in heart rate, a more rapid respiratory rate, more oxygen to all tissues, increased mental activity, and increased muscle strength. Once we learn to use our souped-up bodies to advantage, we can do a better job than we normally could. We can capitalize on the increased energy. Our brains will be sharper; our thinking clearer. And there are definite steps we can take to cope with any negative changes brought about when our bodies get ready to fight or flee. The shakes, hot and cold flashes, nausea, damp palms, cold sweat dripping down the ribs, the dry throat can be controlled and conquered.

Here are some proven ways to help overcome stage fright. Dress comfortably in clothes you like and feel that you look really good in. Be well prepared. Don’t wait until the last minute to put your speech together. Rehearse several times. Concentrate on your message. When you believe you have something important to share with your audience, it’s easy to get excited about what you’re going to tell them. When you focus on your message, you likely will forget about yourself. Take several deep breaths. The increased respiratory rate we usually experience as a result of stage fright can cause lots of problems. Not only do we run out of breath every few words, we also lack the support necessary for good vocal production. Breathing deeply breaks this cycle and has a calming effect.

Picture yourself as doing well. Use positive mental imaging. See yourself in your mind’s eye being introduced, walking to the speaker’s stand, speaking to a warm, responsive audience. See how well you’re doing. Hear your words flowing without hesitation. Hear the laughter of the audience, the enthusiastic applause after you are finished. See yourself as successful, and run several replays of your success. Make no negative confession. Whatever you do, don’t say, “I know I’m going to blow it,” or “I’m so nervous, I’ll never get through this speech.” Thinking that way is bad enough, but there’s something about saying negative things about yourself that feeds your fears and makes them turn into horrible monsters. Remember, your audience is made up of people just like you. They want you to do well. They don’t want their time to be wasted by a lousy, boring speaker. In fact, an ill-at-ease failure at the lectern makes the listener ill-at-ease and embarrassed, too. Everyone has the problem of learning to handle nervousness, the jitters, stage fright – whatever you want to call it. Everyone gets butterflies in the stomach. The trick is to train them to fly in formation.

Use these ideas to calm the nervousness and let the confident, professional you shine through.


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