How to overcome stage fright

The essay about things to do to nail your next public presentation

As an extrovert kid, I was growing quite audacious. I was always seeking the attention of an audience getting energy from other people and was never afraid of it.

#1 Identify

The first thing you have to do is to identify what is the nature of your fear. Being able to verbally communicate what frightens you is the first step and the basis of emotional intelligence.

  • “I look silly”. Reframe: Looks don’t matter. In Russian, we say: “Open your mouth so that I could see you.” What you say and how you say it — this is what matters. Of course, keep in mind being well-dressed and well-groomed adds up extra points to your charisma.
  • “They will booo at me and throw rotten tomatoes!” Reframe: in fact most of the times the audience is very supportive. Every single one person who is listening to you had an experience of public speaking. They will understand if you feel nervous and support you because they can deeply relate to the way you feel. No worries.
  • “But I am SO nervous!” Reframe: ok, can’t handle it at all? Say it out loud. Say: “I am sorry. I don’t think I am good at this thing and I feel a tad bit nervous. Let’s clap together so I could feel better and I start.”To discharge an awkward situation one just needs to admit that it is awkward. Same here. Be honest, be genuine and people will love it.

#2 Think

This step is setting up your mindset and the action plan in order to improve your presentation skills.

#3 Execute

Here are the things that you can start doing today.

Engage.

If you are a student participate in school activities and in the class. Always be the first one to step up.

I post it because you are an angel, Jackie. This world needs more people like you.

Find a mentor.

Some people are naturally good at public speaking. Naturals usually are not the best teachers. The best teachers are self-taught naturals. Those who struggled and suffered and built up their confidence from the zero ground. Find such people and surrender to their teaching. You will learn a lot.

Learn a musical instrument and sing.

I picked up a guitar when I was 15. Since then for a couple of years, I was a regular player on the streets of the city singing and collecting some money. On the hindsight, those were the days of punk and there were many moments I am not proud of but that experience became a cornerstone in building up my assertiveness.

Enroll in acting classes.

Theater is an extremely popular entertainment back home in Almaty, Kazakhstan. A lot of people are artistic and a whole lot more need a way of escaping from 9–5 routine. As a result, the whole range of clubs that offer acting classes have emerged and I happened to finish the first stage in one of such clubs.

Enroll in a coaching workshop.

I passed some workshops where I had to do some things that people would consider weird. I was giving away “Free Hugs”, singing on the street collecting donations for the orphanage, reading poems out loud in the park, organizing and participating in flash-mobs.

Study a foreign language.

A new language will help improve your articulation skills and understand your native language on a deeper level but most importantly it will allow you to work on your inner blocks which pop up every time you start over-thinking your classmates opinions about your language skills. Knowing an extra language adds up to the confidence as your development becomes more and more multi-faceted.

Exercise.

Street workout is the movement that I started back in 2011 in my own city. Today Kazakhstan is the only country in the world where street workout is considered an official national sport.

Write.

Writing improves your speaking skills and the ability to self- reflect. This will help you in the analysis of your performance and expression of the ways to improve on it. Daily Journal is definitely something to integrate into your routine.

Watch.

Learn from the best. There are many coaching videos on Youtube. But what I find the best is to watch the actual lectures of some of the most confident speakers. Long live the TED talks!

Read.

Read books, read essays like this one dedicated to your topic of interest. Read a lot in general. One can’t be witty without being intelligent. Intelligence is a great basis for the charm and further development of confidence. Stay empty. Stay hungry.

#4 Analyze

Every time after another presentation you go through 3 questions:

  • What did I do badly?
  • What can be done to improve?

Tips.

[Before presentation]

Repetition, repetition, repetition.

This is the major key to any presentation. If you know that improvisation is not your strongest trait you should learn your script by heart. You should know where you will stand, how and when will you move, and the precise timing of your delivery. By repetition , you teach your brain to get used to your presentation.

Listen to uplifting music.

Listen to the “Eye of a Tiger” or “We are the champions” or whatever suits you. Go an pump yourself up in the toilet if you don’t want others to see you. If you are more daring you can even put in on at the start of your presentation. Look how Aaron Levie, CEO of Box breaks the ice with this small trick in his talk at Y-Combinator:

Use power posing.

Watch this brilliant talk by Amy Cuddy. This TED talk completely changed the way I think about stance and postures. It will help you to develop a “power mindset” too. You can use this trick both before and during the presentation.

Gain momentum.

Before you start the presentation, start talking to other people — just small talk, nothing serious.Talk to several different people one after another. Talk to a small group. It will help you to turn inside out and switch from self-reflecting “observing the inner” mode to active-listening and participating “observing the outer” mode which is exactly what you need for presenting.

[During the presentation]

Keep the eye contact.

Avoid wandering your gaze in the audience — it will seem like you are distracted. Choose 2–3 people and watch them in the eye when you deliver your presentation. Don’t stare at them but look friendly and smile. These people will serve as your anchors, your focus points. If you do that your audience will note that you look super focused and even intense during your delivery.

Meta-message.

Hone the voice inside your head when you deliver. Is that a voice of a mentoring strict teacher or a voice of a passionate storyteller? Maybe it is a motivational voice of a preacher? People unconsciously absorb your subliminal message and build their judgment upon it. Your inner voice you sub-communicate should be well thought through and smartly designed.

Body language.

Keep the straight posture. Use your hands. If you wear glasses you can use them by holding them in your hand and even biting one of the temples. Play around with gestures, find what works for you. Use a bottle of water and drink. You can leave it on the table next to your notes and it will be an excuse to take a sip, sneak into your notes and take a meaningful pause.

Be humorous. Be spontaneous.

A good joke is always gold. Remember to stay present not to miss the moment when it is actually appropriate. If you need — prepare something brilliant in advance but be genuine and authentic and people will love it.

Final words.

Stage fright is a fear and as with all fears, the only way to control it is to do things that scare you. Depending on what’s your current level is select the activities that you can implement immediately and gradually progress.

Let’s connect on LinkedIn! [https://www.linkedin.com/in/chengeer/]