Stage fright or “podium fear” is probably the one reason people hate doing presentations. It is the reason for all those sleepless nights, loss of appetite and hatred for your boss and or job. But stage fright is nothing new, you are not alone when you experience it. Every presenter, actor, TV star and musician face it every day. Stage fright is what makes your performance brilliant. Stage fright should be embraced and worked with.
However, stage fright in its extreme form can cause you to ‘freeze up’, and when that happens it is not good. So how can you overcome this extreme form of stage fright? Here are a list of strategies that have always helped me and I hope can help you:
1. Arrive early and claim the room
By arriving early, setting up your computer / whiteboard / OHP etc you are becoming familiar with the room. After setting up your computer walk around the room, get a real feel for its dimensions and layout. Part of the problem we have when we present is that we are not familiar with the room in which we are presenting and therefore we naturally feel uncomfortable. By arriving early, and before your audience arrives, you allow yourself time to become familiar with the room and to ‘own’ it. Once you ‘own’ the room it becomes your territory and then you will feel much more comfortable. Imagine how you feel talking to a stranger at your desk or in your office – you do not feel nervous then do you? That is because it is your territory.
2. Prepare and practice
If you do not practice and prepare before hand then you are going to be very nervous. By practicing your presentation, going through it with your slides and not just reading and reading a paper script you will gradually feel more confident. By being confident you will overcome to worst of the nerves. Again, you need to do this with your slides as this gives your practice and rehearsal a more realistic feel and it also prevents you from losing your place in the middle of your presentation.
3. Greet your audience when they arrive
There is a subconscious factor working when you are standing at the door of the presentation room greeting your audience when they arrive. It gives you an air of power and control. It also gives you the chance to see that your audience are not angry monsters wanting to kill you, but nice, friendly people interesting in what you have to say. Hiding away at the back of the room is going to intensify your nerves. Being out there at the door greeting your audience is going to help you forget that you are nervous – after all what is more natural than meeting people?
4. Don’t change your presentation last minute
I still cannot believe that people do this – they spend weeks preparing for a big presentation, they practice many hours and then on the night before or even the morning before they change their presentation. Never do this! Changing your presentation hours before delivering it is going to intensify your fears. Set a cut off of one week before your presentation and then do not change it. You will be tempted to do it, but do not. Once you have your boss’s OK then stick with what you have got and then practice it. If you have practiced the presentation well enough, made no changes you will be confident and your fear will be less intense.
Olympic athletes, stage actors and musicians all use this trick to enhance their performance. They visualise performing fantastically and winning the gold medal or receiving loud applause. As you are practicing your presentation visualise everything going well – visualise looking at the audience, clicking through your slides seamlessly and answering questions effectively. While most people find it difficult to see how this can work, trust me when I tell you that it really does. It prepares your body and mind and it helps you to perform brilliantly.
I hope these little tips help you when you next do your presentation – try them, they have be tried and tested by many great speakers over the years and they have been proven to work.