Are you dealing with the stage fright monster? Here are 3 ways to quickly regain your comfort and confidence in public speaking!
If you experience speech anxiety, you don’t need graveyards, creaking door hinges, or things that go bump in the night to introduce you to the stage fright monster.
He’s probably an old—if not favorite—acquaintance.
Completely illogical yet persistent, he hangs around despite your knowledge, experience, and desire to share what you know with audiences. He likes to whisper in your ear when you’re getting ready to speak. Worse, he enjoys climbing on your back and staying there while you’re talking. Chances are you’ve known him for longer than you like to admit, and you just want him out of your life!
To overcome nerves and speak with influence, you need a tool for conquering stage fright. What better than the approach actors use? Try my simple yet effective technique that works even if you have just 5 minutes to spare! Download my free cheat sheet, “How to Calm Your Nerves Before Speaking.”
Well, the good news is there are ways to deal with this creature effectively and permanently. So put down that string of garlic, silver bullet, crucifix, or your other weapon of choice, and use the following three approaches. They’re custom-made for dealing with the stage fright monster when you’re wondering how to overcome fear of public speaking.
The Genard Method and the “3-Part Model”
For the past 15 years, I’ve been helping professionals permanently banish their fear of public speaking. As an actor, I use theater-based techniques that are the world’s best for achieving the right frame of mind for spoken performances. That means being calm and flexible, ultra-focused on your message, and ready to connect with your listeners.
As anyone who suffers speech anxiety knows, those three characteristics disappear amid the self-consciousness and mental turmoil that accompanies glossophobia. So to be the kind of speaker you know you can be, you need to marry the elements of effective performance to your content knowledge.
That’s where the three components come in. After all, actors deal with stage fright as much as the general population does. Yet they need a foolproof system to go on night after night and consistently perform at their best. Speakers have the same need in talks, presentations, lectures, speeches and meetings. That’s why I developed what I call the “3-part model” for eliminating stage fright. Here, below are the elements of my Fearless Speaking System:
Cognitive Restructuring in Public Speaking
Fear of public speaking results in faulty thinking, period. This is manifested in different ways, including believing you know what an audience is thinking, becoming convinced that they’re critical of you and your message, and undervaluing your own abilities. Other examples of nonproductive thinking include worst-case thinking, “perfectionizing” (believing you have to be flawless), and negative self-talk.
Cognitive restructuring is a way of reshaping such thinking. It’s similar to talk therapy in that it teaches you how to help rather than undermine your own success. Getting your head in the right place is absolutely an essential element of outsmarting the stage fright monster. As an actor as well as a speech coach, however, I don’t think it’s enough to try to think your way out of fear of public speaking.
Body Language and Public Speaking
An approach that incorporates the body is also needed. There are two important reasons why this is so.
When you speak in public, you’re a body performing in space. Your nonverbal communication—body language, gestures, facial expressions, use of the stage—matter as much as anything you say. Your physicality strongly affects your relationship with your audience because they are watching you as you speak. And as we all know, visuals are a very powerful factor in communication. So learning how to use body language for public speaking is a vital element in feeling calm and enjoying what you’re doing.
The other aspect of the body and public speaking is dealing with the physiological effects of speech anxiety. These too can be powerful: from rapid heart rate and shallow breathing, to sweating, dry mouth, shaky hands or voice, and the release of stress hormones. By incorporating a focus on the physical aspects of your public speaking, you’ll be adding a powerful “second part” to your triumvirate of tools to counter stage fright. A great place to start is by learning how to breathe effectively for public speaking.
Gaining Focus, Mindfulness, and Presence for Public Speaking
This is the culminating element you need for overcoming speaking fear, because it can help take your speeches from the mundane to the extraordinary. Average speakers focus on conveying information; but dynamic speakers achieve focus and presence—in a word, mindfulness—that helps make something happen in the room.
Of course, your focus is fractured immediately when the stage fright monster makes his entrance. And nothing is harder than being present with listeners and keeping your focus when the monster is breathing down your neck. So explore exercises and approaches that allow you to improve your ability to stay focused and on your game as a speaker. Here’s how to incorporate mindfulness in public speaking.
You’ll find these three approaches and much more on overcoming public speaking anxiety in my book Fearless Speaking. You won’t even need to whistle past any graveyards, once you whittle the stage fright monster down to size.
You should follow me on Twitter here.