How to Overcome Stage Fright in Almost Any Situation
“A little bit of stage fright, then I’m ready.” – Faith Hill
Fear of speaking before an audience plagues many of us. It certainly held me captive for a few years in my early business career. Yet, whether standing on stage to deliver an extemporaneous speech or before your boss and co-workers when you give a presentation, or in front of assembled family members or friends, the ability to get past stage fright is a useful skill to master. Here are some suggestions on how to overcome it.
Know the material.
It’s never going to benefit you to get in front of an audience and wing it. No matter how conversational you are in face-to-face casual interactions, there’s something inordinately intimidating and foreign about standing before a group (whether you know some or all the people or not) and starting to speak. That fear that chokes your words in the back of the throat? That’s stage fright. Indeed, fear of public speaking is more common than you might think.
Some years ago, I was the Western regional public relations manager for a major automaker. As such, I oversaw coordinating and carrying out new product press introductions, ride-and-drive events, auto show press activities, one-on-one interviews and much more. Regional press events always involved presentation experts, either a marketing and/or engineering specialist or sometimes a high-ranking executive from the home office.
As an aficionado of performance vehicles, I eagerly looked forward to the introduction of a new sedan from the brand. I devoured all the technical specs, various features, knew the genesis of design, the make’s history and details that spark media interest. As part of a multi-city ride-and-drive activity spanning several states, I would introduce the speakers and ensure things went smoothly throughout the event.
For the premier event in Los Angeles, I launched into my spiel while standing beside the sedan. Even though I hated speaking before an audience, even reporters I’ve known for a long time, I was so well-informed and enthusiastic about the car that the facts and pertinent information just flowed smoothly. I did have an outline, and one or two times I paused to remember the next point I needed to make. No one in the audience was the wiser and everything proceeded like it was planned.
The only downside was that when I introduced the engineer who was to speak next, he said he couldn’t have said it better and had nothing to add. He did, however, take 45 minutes of questions. Not wanting to upstage our presenters during subsequent stops on our press tour, I pared down my introductory remarks.