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Stage Fright: Don't Let It Kill Your Presentation
By Marjorie Brody   Printer Friendly Version

You have a problem. You are one of the millions of people who are frightened to speak in public. You are not alone.

Whether it is your first presentation, or number 100, almost everyone suffers from some level of stage fright or performance anxiety.

Although the fear of speaking in public ranks ahead of death, flying, heights, and snakes in surveys, this fear can be controlled. It is a perfectly normal feeling, and a form of energy that can be channeled to your benefit. To use these feelings to your own advantage, first you must identify them.

There are four common fears that most speakers have:

Fear of fainting. Unless you have a medical problem, this is almost unheard of. You may feel faint, but it is highly unlikely that you will faint.

Fear of boring your audience. Make sure that your material is interesting and you have backed it up with facts, figures, and anecdotes to enhance and illustrate your points. Show enthusiasm about the topic with your voice and body language. If you are happy to be there, so will your audience.

Fear of your mind going blank. This can happen. We have all seen it happen to other people, and you need to learn what to do if it happens to you: Pause, look at your notes or outline and try to pick up again where you left off, or move on to your next thought.

Fear of being judged. It is important that the audience knows you enjoy your subject, even if you've made some mistakes or have lost your place. A sincere presenter doing his or her best, who is obviously well prepared, will not be judged harshly.

Once you have identified your fears, begin working to manage them and let them help you. First, accept that stage fright is a normal feeling, experienced by most people.

Visualization

An effective way to control stage fright is by using visualization. In the visualization process, you picture yourself in front of an audience. You are composed, confident and in control. By picturing yourself in a successful situation, you are able to give yourself the confidence you need to achieve your goal.

There are three basic rules to follow which will make controlling your fears easier.

1) Arrive early. This will give you a chance to relax, survey your surroundings, make a trip to the restroom, organize your thoughts, and check the facilities -- as well as any equipment you may be using. The speaker who rushes in at the last minute does himself or herself a disservice. We all need the time to mentally prepare ourselves for the event at hand.

2) Eat lightly. Avoid heavy meals. This also means no alcohol, and nothing that might cause you stomach upsets. Bananas are a good choice, they are light and filling. It is also important to avoid taking decongestants or other medications that might make you drowsy. Use humor to help release endorphins. Laughter is a great tension reliever. Take some of the pressure off yourself by using interactive techniques. When you begin your presentation, plan to ask audience members a question and get them to raise their hands. This will take some of the focus off of you and put it onto them.

3) Another way to help you relax before your presentation is to try simple stretching exercises. It can be done just about anywhere; I've even done it on an airplane!

Perhaps the most important way to address and manage stage fright is to speak frequently. The more you practice the better speaker you will become.

Article copyright© Brody Communications Ltd. 1999

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