Stage Fright: Don’t Let It Kill Your Presentation

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Guest post Monday brings us Marjorie Brody, founder and CEO of Brody Professional Development. She offers us such great insights and reminders on how to do well when speaking in front of groups.

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 five common fears that most speakers have:

1) 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. Of course, practicing out loud usually prevents this from happening.

2) Fear of showing various physical signs of stage fright, including nervousness, trembling or the shakes.

There are many techniques to help you control these physical symptoms, including breathing and moving.

3) Someone challenges you, and you don’t know the answer.

It’s OK to occasionally not know an answer to a question. Just remember: NEVER lie. Be honest, and tell the person you will get back to him or her as soon as possible with an answer, and then follow up as promised.

Or, if possible, ask another expert who may be in the audience. Of course, anticipate the questions and practice your responses – that way, you won’t be caught off guard.

4) The audience members think you don’t know enough about the subject.

If you have backed up your material with facts and figures, and anecdotes to illustrate your points, this shouldn’t be a problem. Think from the audience members’ perspective – what do they already know?

5) A bad presentation will ruin your reputation.

We all have bad days and make mistakes. Most often what you believe to be a major faux pas or a poorly received speech may not be as awful as you think. Being well prepared and practiced goes a long way – even if the audience doesn’t like your presentation.

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. The goal is to control the symptoms, not eliminate them.

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 4 basic techniques 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 — and, most importantly, talk to the audience members as they enter the room. 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, milk products, or carbonated drinks. 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.

3)    Use humor to help release endorphins and interactive techniques.

Laughter is a great tension reliever. 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.

4)    Other ways to help you relax before your presentation include trying simple stretching and breathing exercises, and visualizing success.

These techniques, along with proper preparation and practice, will alleviate most stage fright symptoms. Remember to use the extra “energy” to create enthusiasm.

Copyright 2011 Marjorie Brody. Marjorie is an author, Hall of Fame speaker, and coach to Fortune 1,000 executives. She is CEO of BRODY Professional Development, a business communication and presentation skills company that offers tailored training programs, workshops, keynote presentations, and executive coaching. BRODY serves clients such as: Pfizer, Genentech, Johnson & Johnson, Campbell Soup, JPMorgan Chase, NBC Universal, GlaxoSmithKline, Citi Private Bank, and many trade associations. For more information, visit www.BrodyPro.com or call 215-886-1688.


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