5 Effective tips to manage your public speaking anxiety and stage fear
We all have gone through that moment right before our turn to go on stage when we can actually feel like butterflies flying in our stomach.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to be in a conference with the World Champion of Public Speaking – 2015, Mohamed Qahtani from Saudi Arabia where I was contesting in the Toastmasters International Speech Contest the next day. I asked Mohamed – “I have seen your mind-blowing speech titled The Power of Words and I want to ask you how you control your nervousness on stage”. Well, Mohamed’s reply was – “Watch my keynote tomorrow and closely look at my hands”.
The next day I got up early to get a front seat during Mohamed’s keynote and after paying close attention I was astonished to see even his hands were mildly trembling while he was on stage. Later he told me everyone gets nervous on stage and actually that little bit of nervousness is good since it brings spontaneity. After all, butterflies are not bad, you just need to make them fly in a formation. I acknowledge being too nervous however can often cause a negative impact on the audience and cause you to forget parts of your speech or freeze on stage.
Here are five important tips to manage your public speaking anxiety and overcoming stage fear before your important speech.
Breathe: Just before you walk up on stage, take two deep breaths. Breathe through the nose – fill your lungs with air – and then slowly exhale from the mouth. This technique helps relax your body and mind.
Power Poses: According to Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School researcher, if a person demonstrates closed body language, slouches in the chair or hunches over his phone it can cause them to feel even more nervous. On the other hand, if a person practices using open body gestures such as arms spread wide while standing upright, it helps release hormones which are responsible for reducing stress, anxiety and negative thoughts. This technique is often used by successful athletes and leading CEOs alike. For reference, see the image below – the positions on the top row are known as high power poses which increase confidence, and the positions in lower row are called low power poses which make you feel under confident.
Do not rush to begin: When you arrive on stage, take a pause. Look at the audience and try to find some familiar or friendly faces and speak as if you are conversing with them. There is no hurry… the audience will gladly wait for a few seconds before you settle. Remember, a good start means half the task is over.
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse: Before you are due to present on stage, practice your content so many times that you internalize your content instead of memorizing it. Rehearse in front of diverse audiences – friends, family members, people from different age groups and different profiles and incorporate their feedback into your presentation.
Do not try to memorize the content: Better than memorizing the content, build an outline of your speech in your head and speak around that. In case you forget something – just move on. Only you know you forgot something. If you try to recollect the forgotten piece you may lose confidence and audience will get distracted while you try to remember it.