Stage fright & the importance of practice, practice, practice

Stage FrightSweaty palms?  Tightness in your chest?  Mind going blank?  If you hate presenting, this might all sound too familiar.  So familiar perhaps that you avoid doing presentations altogether.  Ouch. But avoiding the issue could be make or break for your career or that promotion you want.

First of all, know this:  you are not alone.  Everyone experiences this – even the greatest public speakers do.  Don’t believe me?  Have a look at Steve Jobs and his first public TV interview. See how nervous and fidgety he is?  He’s not remembered like that now, is he?  So, how did he do it?

In the course of researching this blog I conducted a totally unscientific survey of the members of my ATHENA network group & my followers on my Helen Foster Coaching Facebook page.

The most common answers were:

  •  The thought of it – the ‘unknown’
  •  Mind going blank – “brain freeze”
  •  Talking too quickly
  •  Not being able to answer questions at the end

Scary stuff, but all very normal.  So, what do you do about it?

I recently read a brilliant book by Carmine Gallo called “Talk like TED – The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds”.  There was great advice – be genuine, tell stories that capture the hearts & minds of your audience and timing: stick to the 18 minute rule!

One crucial recommendation though was the importance of practice.  Practice.  Practice and Practice some more.

The point of being scared about presentations – literally having stage fright – is that you have a fear of the unknown.  You can’t control the unknown and your instinct is to run away from it.  So, rather than focusing on that, focus on what you CAN control.  And what can you control?  You can control how much you practice.

Practice is the key to everything I think.  Practice as often as you can, and then practice some more.  Gallo says that Steve Jobs used to spend hours and weeks preparing for a speech so that he eventually established himself as one of the most charismatic business leaders on the world stage.  But he only did this with practice.

If you practice your presentation, you can only get more familiar with it. Get more familiar with it, and you’ll be more confident.  More confidence and self belief = better delivery. Think of ballet dancers – they don’t get to be so graceful by just “turning-up-on-the-night-and-winging-it”.  They practice…not for hours, or days or months – but years and years in order to become the professional creators of perfection we see on stage.

If you don’t believe me, have a look at this fantastic short film from TEDEd Lessons worth sharing – The Science of Stage Fright.  At less than five minutes long, it may be the best few minutes of your day today.

Finally, please have a look at an article featuring me on Psychologies.co.uk – How to be a better public speaker.

Enjoy!

Helen-Foster