Tips On Public Speaking
Tips on public speaking: ways to overcome the crippling effects of stage fright, and how to use nervous energy to actually improve performance.
On a list of personal fears, the fear of public speaking is usually teamed with the fear of death and the fear of public nudity. Many people make a conscious effort to avoid making a public speech, but others depend on their ability to speak well in front of an audience for part of their livelihoods. Whether this is your first speech or your millionth, stage fright, that irrational fear of facing an audience, can strike at any time. Being nervous is natural, and even beneficial at times. But stage fright can be crippling, and turn a presentation into a social nightmare for the unprepared speaker. If you have a speech to deliver and need to overcome a bad case of stage fright, here are some tips from professional speakers.
1. Nothing will ever replace rehearsal. The underlying cause of most speech anxiety is a lack of confidence, either in the material's reception or your own delivery. The best cure for this anxiety is practice, practice, practice. When an actor has his lines memorized to the point he can recite them in his sleep, the real performance begins. The same holds true with your presentation. Once you get past the words, which only rehearsal can do, then you can move on to the meaning behind those words. When you have a high level of confidence in your material and your delivery, then your anxiety level should come way down.
2. Don't visualize the audience in their underwear, or anything else for that matter. This old nugget of advice tried to convince nervous speakers to spread their anxieties by imagining the audience in a similarly awkward state. Current thinking shies away from such visualizations, because they do nothing to help the speaker relate to the audience in a mature fashion. Instead, you should visualize the most receptive audience in the world, waiting eagerly to hear your inspired speech. Picture a room full of the best teachers you ever had, beaming with pride. Whatever you visualize, keep it positive and dignified.
3. Too much nervous energy is too much. If your anxiety level is still too high after all your rehearsal and preparation, then you need to find an outlet for that energy. Many professional actors and public speakers find that doing light calisthenic exercises in their dressing rooms or a private area can relieve the excess energy. Try running in place, or shaking your arms and legs. Go out for a quick run somewhere, or punch a boxing bag. The trick is to release enough nervous energy to calm your anxieties, but not leave you so stress-free that your speech suffers.
Some nervousness is a good thing, because it shows you really care about the speech and the audience. The best speeches are delivered by nervous people.
4. If at all possible, stand on the exact area where you will be giving your speech later. Notice what you can see and what you can't see from that perspective. What sort of podium will you be standing behind? How well do the microphones work, and how are the acoustics? Immersing yourself in these details may help keep your mind off your stage fright. Become comfortable with the feel and atmosphere of the stage you're on. Some speakers are surprised to learn how limited their view of the audience really is when all the stage lights are turned on. What you might fear as a group of faces staring at you in judgement may just turn out to be an anonymous group of shadows.
5. If you do find yourself becoming overcome with anxiety during a speech, all is not lost. Take a brief moment to collect your thoughts. Drink a sip of water. You might even 'admit' your case of nerves to the audience, in an off-handed and humorous way. Most of the audience members have the same fears of speaking that you do, and may empathize with a polite round of applause or words of encouragement. Above all, try not to abandone your well-rehearsed plans. Find a logical re-starting point in your speech and start from there. Having an audience fully behind you and your words of wisdom can be the best cure of all for anxiety and stage fright.