If you’d rather be the dead guy in the casket than be giving the eulogy at a funeral; you might be in luck because this really does work.
The fast pulse, shaky knees, shaky hands, trembling lips — all the signs of common stage fright. You could say it grows out of the terror of failing publicly or is just simply unexplained fear… Actually scratch that, I like to go with facts; so let me explain it the way I know best: The whole cocktail reaction of public speaking or performance is simply your body reacting to a threat with the release of various hormones such as adrenaline. In this case the fear of failing publicly. A thousand years ago it would have saved us from the jaws of a jungle tiger or the lash of an ax — but now, in our safe-yet-not-so-safe-either world it’s just become an inconvenience.
You could consider various pills and drugs to temporarily bury the signs; but what’s the point. Apparently more than 80% of people experience some form of stage fright and some thespians leverage this feeling to give some of their best performances. For those folks comfortable in their own skin, walking up onto a stage and delivering an A* performance — feel free to skip this article. But if you’d rather prefer to be the dead guy in the casket than be giving the eulogy at a funeral; you might be in luck because this really might work.
Practice, practice, practice — until you can recite all of it with your eyes closed or with an action movie playing in front of you. You just need this to push you over the first hump, usually once you’re over it the first time the fright tends to drop drastically. It’s ok to be nervous. Being nervous means it matters. Use it to your advantage, prepare ahead of time. Practice in front of a mirror or videotape yourself performing and repeat until you can say to yourself — “Wow, that was a great presentation!”.
Ease the tension in your body, try meditation (basically controlled breathing and calming down) and stretching or chewing gum to ease the tension in your jaws.
Understand how our body language affect how others see us: I strongly suggest watching the TED Talk by Social psychologist Amy Cuddy which explains the whole process and introduces power posing. Some tips are to look straight ahead instead of the floor and no slouching — learn to fake confidence.
Yes laugh! Laughing will take the nervousness off your mind — watch a funny video in the morning before your performance. It’s a good idea to anticipate the nervousness and set a mental stop time for it. Maintaining a positive attitude about yourself and thinking about your successes do matter and can affect your performance.
Try to arrive early at the venue and get comfortable with the environment — it would be perfect if you could practice at least once at the venue.
Once you've done all this for at least a week before the actual event you will still feel the last minute jitters and nervousness — trust me this is normal, professional speakers sometimes feel just as nervous right before their performances. Breath well and try tightly squeezing and releasing your hands several times before you walk up to perform. You might start with a stutter and you might just want to run away, just keep going and within 30 seconds you’ll be performing just like you were when you’d practiced alone!
The best way to solve a problem is to understand it inside and out, and then press where it hurts!
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