Aloha, Moanalua High School students, and surfers on the world-wide web. Do you feel nervous speaking to a group of 30 people? What about 100? What about 1,000 people? It doesn’t matter whether you’re experienced or a novice. Everyone feels some level of anxiety depending on the number of people in the audience or who’s sitting in it. This video will help you manage stage fright so that what seems like a mountain can be reduced to a molehill. There are nine strategies you can try. The first one is fairly obvious.
- Practice your speech. Say it aloud a minimum of seven times. I call this the Rule of Seven. So often, people read their scripts over and over, thinking it will flow when the time comes. The human brain isn’t wired like this. You have to speak. In fact, if you try saying the words aloud seven times a day, seven days a week, by the 49th time, you will be fluent, and rarely need to glance at your notes.
- My second recommendation is to visualize your performance. When you are rehearsing, see yourself doing a fabulous job. Deliver your speech as though you’ve already been through it. Your brain doesn’t know the difference. When you actually perform, it should feel like deja vu, and this will boost your confidence.
- Another good strategy is arriving early and visualizing your speech in the space you’re given. This is especially important if you have visual aides or a projector. Walk around the area or stage and get a feel for the acoustics. Imagine sounding awesome, and you will.
- Fourth on the list is staying in the moment. This is the biggest psychological hurdle for many speakers. Focusing on the present is tough because some people have to let go of negative moments from the past, while others need to stop worrying about the future. People say, “stop worrying,” but this is easier said than done. The best advice I can offer is that you watch the movie, The Last Samurai. In one scene, the main character practices fencing with a wooden sword with some samurai. He is repeatedly and harshly beaten by his main rival until his friend rushes to his side and says, “too many mind.” He realizes at that moment that, in order to be successful, he has to stay laser focused on the present. The match resumes, and, much to the surprise of the samurai gathered, it ends in a draw. Staying in the present moment can make you much more effective.
- Let’s go on to number 5, rewire your attitude. If you keep telling yourself, “I’m nervous,” you will be. What if you tell yourself, “I’m excited?” Both emotions feel the same. Your pulse quickens. Your breathing does, too. What can be different? Your attitude. Tell yourself, “let’s do this.” As Zig Ziglar said, “let your attitude determine your altitude.”
- What else can you do? Try number 6 - breathe deeply. Studies have shown that taking deep, belly breaths can help you calm down. There are many internet sources, yoga classes, and workshops that can show you how it’s done. It is an ancient method of staying in the moment. If you practice enough, it can work for you.
- The next strategy is not obvious. Believe it or not, standing like Superman can help. Actually, any open pose held for at least two minutes works. It changes the chemistry of your brain, and helps you feel more confident. Of course, this will look odd in a classroom setting, but if you are backstage, you can do this without raising eyebrows.
- Are there strategies that are less obvious? Try number 8 - reflexology. If you have mild anxiety, gently massage your thumb for two minutes. If you’re terrified, shift to massaging your index finger. Think about it. Babies suck on their thumbs, and it works for them. Why wouldn’t it work for you?
- The final method I’d like to share is probably the most important of all. Shift your focus. Many people make themselves nervous wrecks by constantly thinking about themselves. Shift your focus to the needs of the audience. You have an important message. Deliver it the way it was meant to be shared. Think about whether the people in the back can hear. Think about using the most effective tone of voice. Some trainers say imagine the audience in their underwear. I think this is very poor advice. All it does is encourage you to look down on your audience instead of relating to them. This may work in the short run, and calm you down, but, in the long run, your development into a great speaker will depend on how well you can connect with others and relate to them on the same level. Concentrate on their needs, and you will be a hit.
There you have it. Nine strategies to help you overcome what’s been holding you back. Each person is different, so if one doesn’t work, try another, or a combination. Isn’t it about time you take control of your destiny and learn to speak brilliantly before audiences of thousands?