Saturday, December 18, 2010

8 Proven Strategies For Defeating The Fear of Public Speaking and 4 Myths That Won’t

Everybody has to give a public presentation every now and again.
Some people call it butterflies. Others are not so lucky. They consider getting up in front of an audience to be terrifying. If you are someone like this, you may dread a Monday morning presentation starting on the Friday before. You might have trouble sleeping Sunday morning. We’ve probably all heard about how there are many people who fear public speaking worse than death.
But the truth is, being able to present before an audience is great for your career. Public speakers command astounding paychecks for their performances. Considering some of the lesser known politicians can demand $20,000 for an hour and a half speech should convince you mastering the art of public speaking is a worthwhile venture.
But only if we could get to the point we don’t want to vomit at the idea of presenting before a group of people.
Before I launch into the tactics that will help, I want to make something clear. A little nervousness before a speech is not only okay, it’s desirable. Light butterflies or jitters wakes you up, keeps you on top of your game and will make your speech dynamic.
Heaven help the speaker who suffers no nervousness. He’s just going through the motions, reading from note cards and boring his audience to death. Or worse, he knows that he’s going to suck (pardon my French) so he doesn’t even try.
Nervousness increases your power to project yourself and roll with questions and unexpected turn of events. You’ll be more edgy, more on your toes…as a result, a better performer. Plus, after 15-30 seconds on stage most people report their nervousness goes away. Therefore, jitters are only a pre-speech concern.
As a former stand-up comic, I sometimes had a touch of stage fright. The newer people on the road had it worse than those who had been doing it for awhile. But we all knew what it was like and had our ways of dealing with it.
It always amazed me to see the various ways some people would deal with stage fright. Some would throw up before a gig and get on stage sweating like they just ran a marathon. Others would drink heavily leading people to laugh for all the wrong reasons.
Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of 8 proven strategies that defeat fear of public speaking and 4 myths that won’t:
Here are the myths that don’t work:
  • Myth #1: Picture the audience naked. They will look so ridiculous your confidence will increase. You can mess up the speech but who cares, they’re naked. As unfortunate as it may seem, the audience is not naked. They’ll be fully clothed and staring at you waiting for a good performance. Do you want the expression on your face to reflect someone looking at a crowd of naked people?
  • Myth #2: Drink lots of water – a belly full of water will do the trick. How about compounding your nervousness by giving yourself a stomachache and increasing your need to use the bathroom?
  • Myth #3: Throw up before your presentation – ugh! Don’t even go there…
  • Myth #4: Take a few swigs of alcohol or some pills to calm you down – Getting drunk or high might get rid of the apprehension, but it will ruin your presentation. You need to have all of your mental faculties. Getting stoned will only make you look stoned.
Here are 8 solid ways to kick your fear of public speaking and give a top-notch performance…
1. Prepare – It is funny the number of people who say “I’ll just wing it.” Honestly, how do they expect not to be nervous or give a crappy performance if they are just making it up as they go? Thorough preparation decreases fear and increases your confidence. Would you ever want a surgeon to just wing it? Of course not. Winging it on stage is dumb. Make sure you prepare adequately.
2. Stand up before a presentation – On your feet soldier. Standing up, takes the physical pressure off your stomach so there’s less of a nauseous feeling. You should also stand up straight with a good posture so you are conditioning a powerful stance before you go on. If you give your body the signal that you are a confident presenter by taking the stance of a confident performer, your mind and emotions will follow. As the host introduces you, the audience will see how confident you are before you even open your mouth. – Isn’t that great?
3. Open with a joke. Most skilled public speakers will open their presentation with a clean ? non offensive joke. A joke solves two purposes. 1. It builds rapport with the audience. 2. A joke allows you time to relax. Remember, if you can make it just 15 or 30 seconds, you’re home free. A joke is an easy way to make it.
4. Avoid drinks and food – It is common to get a frog in your throat before a big presentation. Anxiety causes the muscles to tighten. One of the ?cures? for this is drinking a beverage or eating. The problem with throwing food or liquid on the fire is it goes to your stomach and can intensify the nauseous feeling. The drink will go to your bladder. You don’t want to feel like you’ve got to run to the restroom 30 seconds before you go on stage do you? It’s best to just breath your way through the tension (see tip 5)
5. Breathe abdominally – You may have heard this referred to as “breathing from the diaphragm”. I like to tell people to watch how a baby breaths and you’ll see how to breathe in this way. When a baby breaths, you will see her stomach expand on the inhalation. Her stomach will contract on the exhalation. The effect of this is a much deeper and calming breath. Unfortunately, if you find yourself breathing from the chest, or worse, gasping for air, you are intensifying your anxiety. Your brain isn’t getting enough oxygen and panic reflex sets in — or so I’m told. So practice breathing from the diaphragm. Go ahead, nobody is looking and I won’t tell. Give it a try and see how relaxed you’ll become even right now.
6. Picture a standing ovation – Ahhh the standing “O”. What a night you’ve had if you get an ovation. It’s enough to give you a big head if you are not careful. But go ahead and imagine yourself giving such a terrific performance people stand applauding. Take a mental bow. Go ahead you deserve it. By vividly imagining a striking performance, you can’t worry about falling on your face. All good presenters I’ve talked to picture themselves giving a great performance before they get on stage.
7. Give in to the fear – This is a tricky one. I don’t mean to give in and crawl into a corner and weep. But instead to think “I will not fight my fear.” If you read number 6, you realize that you’re going to go for broke anyway. If you look silly or strange, so what? But the amazing outcome is, when you do let go and stop fighting it, your performance improves. The real you shines through and you won’t choke like the people who fight it.
8. Let it all go – Ok, as you leave the green room (that’s showbiz talk for where the presenters sit before a public speech) you should be walking tall and confidently – remember your mind will follow your body. One of the last thoughts you should tell yourself is “Ok, I am gonna go for it. I am going to speak loudly and confidently. I am going to make them all remember me.” You see, you’ve already committed yourself. There’s no benefit to whispering or walking out like you are facing certain death. Take it all in, the bright lights, the audience, the sounds of it all… It?s too late to turn back so just give in and project confidence – even if you don’t believe it!
Finally, acting is part of every presentation. Persuading your audience to listen and pay attention requires acting like you are someone worth listening to. You can act confident or act shy and withdrawn. Choose to be withdrawn and your audience will follow you into boredom. Choose to be confident and your audience will follow your lead. It’s not natural for most people to speak loudly and project confidence all day long. That’s why I call it acting the part of a persuasive speaker.

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