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Public Speaking Fear: Getting Rid of It in a Jiffy

Let’s face it: public speaking is frightening. Even the best speakers experience jitters before they go onstage. They just hide it really, really well—or they’re so used to stage fright that it’s no longer an issue after their warmup exercises.

Audience members pick up on signs of discomfort when you as a speaker have a hard time onstage: excessive sweating, stuttering, shortness of breath, etc. When they do, you become more conscious about what you’re doing, and the anxiety starts to build up. Does that mean you’re not ready? Possibly.

There’s no denying that some people, to no fault of their own, have a hard time dealing with high-stress situations—and you can bet that giving a speech in front of a crowd is stressful. Imagine the scenario: You’re minutes away from being called onstage. Your presentation is ready, perhaps designed by a PowerPoint design agency. The lights focus on your spot. But backstage, butterflies are abuzz in your stomach; your knees are shaking, and your palms are sweaty. You feel a bit lightheaded. Dizzy even.

These are uncontrollable responses to nervousness. While completely natural, especially in the context of public speaking, they’re still something that faze lots of people—80 percent of the US population, in fact. However, there are people easily debilitated by the mere thought of speaking in public. Those who suffer from a specific social anxiety disorder, glossophobia, feel nauseous and are prone to having panic attacks, which is why they try to stay away from doing it as much as possible.

For those who need to speak in public, though, how do you deal with stage fright? The ways to do it vary from person to person since each individual handles stress differently. Check this infographic to learn a few tricks to calm down and nail that speech.

Resources:

Hagen-Rochester, Susan. “Got Public Speaking Jitters? Experts Say Embrace the Fear.” Futurity. April 8, 2013. www.futurity.org/got-public-speaking-jitters-experts-say-embrace-the-fear

McClafferty, Alex. “12 ‘Fear of Public Speaking’ Symptoms and How to Beat Them.” Forbes. January 12, 2015. www.forbes.com/sites/alexmcclafferty/2015/01/12/fear-of-public-speaking/#b4fe7fd37a0c

Morgan, Nick. “Why We Fear Public Speaking and How to Overcome It.” Forbes. March 30, 2011. www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorgan/2011/03/30/why-we-fear-public-speaking-and-how-to-overcome-it/#4848c54fea43

Jamieson, Jeremy P., Matthew K. Nock, and Wendy Berry Mendes. “Changing the Conceptualization of Stress in Social Anxiety Disorder: Affective and Physiological Consequences.” Clinical Psychological Science. 2013. journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2167702613482119

A Guide to Tackling Stage Fright

In a corporate or professional presentation, there’s rarely a shortage of pressure to impress. We usually only have one shot with a client or investor, so it’s important to always make it count. Often heightened by this pressure not to choke, many experience serious stage fright when a presentation looms in the near future.

Shockingly, some people prefer this to public speaking.
Shockingly, some people prefer this to public speaking.

Most of us experience at least some sort of nervousness when speaking in public. While this can range from just mild discomfort to full-on panic, it’s an extremely common phenomenon. In fact, a recent study gave people the option between a mild electroshock and giving a short speech, and most people chose electrocution!

The adrenaline we experience prior to a presentation can be a distraction or a tool to help you focus; it’s all a matter of embracing it correctly. Here are a few tips to help channel your heightened anticipation in a positive way.

Maintain a Positive Outlook

It’s often instinctual to begin running through every possible awful thing that could go wrong during a speech when we become anxious about it. Getting stuck in a negative cycle of thought doesn’t do anyone any good, and if anything, over thinking these problems increases their chance of actually occurring.

Instead of sitting and brooding over what might go wrong, channel your energy toward something positive. When you feel yourself becoming anxious about a future presentation, address it in a constructive way. Run through your speech aloud or in your head, go through and edit your PowerPoint, or rethink your talking points. This will not only improve your speech, but this will also help provide you with a healthy distraction.

 

A Healthy Body and Mind are Key

Previously, we wrote about controlling one’s physiology for a presentation, which cannot be overstressed, especially when stage fright is a factor. Leading up to the presentation, avoid sugar, caffeine, and alcohol as much as possible.

Going for a run or taking a yoga class can help your body process stress much more effectively, which can help in alleviating the physical symptoms of stage fright.

Meditation can be a practical tool in relaxing and managing stress.
Meditation can be a practical tool in relaxing and managing stress.

Care for your mental health should be just as important. Deep breathing exercises are a great way to calm yourself down leading up a speech. Other alternatives are taking long walks or practicing meditation. Don’t underestimate these types of exercises when you encounter stressful situations.

Keep Your Focus on the Audience

Overcoming stage fright won’t be fixed overnight. Even if you do your best to follow the tips listed above, you may still be overwrought with nerves when it comes to show time. Here, it’s important to reinforce why you’re giving the speech: to present something of value to the audience. Try to put your focus on the message you’ll convey rather than being terrified about having to convey a message.

Most importantly, don’t shy away from fear of presenting. The more you practice and embrace speaking opportunities, the better and more comfortable you’ll be doing so.

What is a PowerPoint Karaoke?

When we talk about PowerPoint Karaoke, or Battle Decks, we are referring to a new form of Karaoke where people don’t just sing songs. It is based on a PowerPoint presentation, projected on a screen to a group of participants. The images are totally random and it sometimes doesn’t make any sense.

Participants will have to explain what appears on the screen, even if it’s absurd. The objective of this game is not just hanging out, it’s a simple and funny way to improve our rhetorical skills and use it in our own PowerPoint works.  This helps you to avoid the problem of making boring presentations, where people just read what appears on the screen without explaining any ideas or important concepts of what they’re talking about.

It also can be used as an exercise for actors who need to improve their improvisational skills. It also helps you to lose stage fright.

This curious game was presented at a Berlin conference named Zentralle Intelligenz Agentur in 2006, and supposed a total success. Nowadays, it is used in a lot of group dynamics, companies and camps.