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How I learnt to cure stage fright (bufferapp.com)
38 points by Lightning 1544 days ago | hide | past | web | 16 comments | favorite

Umm, there were two things missing, in what happens during the stage fright, a lack of vocabulary happens quite often, I have seen, that when I have stage fright, I forget the rarely used connections, and only use the ones I know like the back of my hand. Stammer, is another one of the things associated with dry mouth.

One of the ways, to cut the stage fright short is the 'Standing Swing' where we instinctively move in hips in, hips out position, like kids reading out in class. Its a way to trick the body into thinking we are in the fecal position.

Secondly, stage fright can be overcome with that rare pause, where after finishing a paragraph, you take in a deep breath, amateurs rarely do it, and intend to carry on, as if they would miss the train.

Thirdly, the tempo matters a lot, often, people try to go faster then their normal speaking speed, to which they are not accustomed to, leading into a unneeded stress on the brain to connect, produce and understand faster, leading to a mental stamina drain.

A good way around the first time stage fright, written in books is the "talk to your friend in the crowd" technique. Always, you would find that kind soul in the crowd, looking dead into your eyes, and giving you a validation nod, each time you speak, very often, this is someone you have a good relationship with, a friend, family or admirer. Just look into his eyes, and start talking, forget the rest of the crowd, as he agrees to everything you say, you would find it easier to deliver your speech.

A side technique, that requires preparation is to keep the contents of your speech simple, and short. Don't use words you are not familiar with, use the words, you most often use, even if you have to be a bit repetitive, your first speech needs to do a good job, don't aspire to be JFK on your first shot.

The fecal position?!

i think meant fetal position, otherwise an accident may occur :)

"don't aspire to be JFK on your first shot."

Thats interesting. Public speaking advice from politicians would be awesome. They have to deliver moving speeches and be able to respond intelligently on the spot to questions they haven't heard before. I'm sure they would have a lot of great advice on how to deal with stage fright and think clearly in those situations.

Such random advice won't work because it's training and practice. One of my clients back in the day was an ex bigcorp spokesperson who trained polititians and management teams. On the course of the training there were simulations with cameras, strong lighting and pro journalists involved. One weekend of such training costs a few thousand per person, but after that they are sure they won't shit their pants when 20 journalists and cameramen jump them out of their office door asking why their product just killed 30 people.

Besides, polititians have teams who prepare everything regarding their image, speech, questions and responses, so they can focus on performing.

don't get me wrong, regardless of ideology preached. Speech Methods used by JFK were top notch. This can be proven by the fact, that his acceptance speech is part of linguistic/rheatoric courses around the world.

I used to be terrified of public speaking. I was also terrible at it - I mean really, truly awful. I spoke too fast, jumped around, interrupted myself - I cringed as much at the thought of what the poor audience had to experience as at my own anxiety.

I didn't do anything fancy to get over my stage fright. I simply took every opportunity to speak publicly that came my way. I knew I was going to suck, but I also decided that the only way to stop sucking was to force myself to get better at it.

Each time, I tried to focus on one specific area of concern, e.g. talking too fast. I would practice giving the talk very slowly and record myself talking. That turned out to be very helpful, because I realized that I was actually talking a lot faster than I thought I was talking. Repeatedly doing this helped me to recalibrate my perception of how fast I was talking.

Over the past several years, I've noticed a few things:

* My pre-speech anxiety has declined from full-on trembling hands, quavery voice, nausea and so on to a mild nervous excitement that I can manage with slow, deep breathing. Once you've actually experienced giving a terrible talk, you get a more realistic (i.e. less catastrophic) sense of how bad it is.

* My talks themselves definitely suck less than they used to. I'm still not what you could call a good public speaker, but at least I look and sound reasonably comfortable on stage. I've gotten slower, though not slow enough, and I am generally able to stay on message.

* I tend to use my slides as cues for what I want to say at each point. This occasionally backfires when the stage is set up so that I can't easily see them.

My goal is to be a good public speaker. Maybe in five or ten years I'll get there. In the meantime, it's a work in progress.

Improv. The only way to genuinely cure (as opposed to merely assuage) stage fright is performing improv, completely unprepared, in front of an unfamiliar audience repeatedly. Eventually, you'll be as or more comfortable on stage as you are within a person-to-person conversation.

While I highly recommend improv and consider it one of the best choices I've made with my life, I don't think the benefits translate as easily to public speaking as one might think. A huge chunk of improv is learning to turn your brain off and do what feels natural and obvious. If you follow a couple of rules and have played in enough scenes to get a good feel for it, you're probably not going to create an unwatchable scene. I feel little to no anxiety when I perform improv in front of a crowd, but if I haven't prepared well to give a talk, sometimes the shakes set in. There's just so much more that can go wrong.

Regardless, do improv.

Seconding sohamsankaran and natrius on this. Joining an improv club easily counts as one of my best decisions.

Let me recommend the book Impro (http://www.amazon.com/Impro-Improvisation-Theatre-Keith-John...), in particular.

A great way to hone your public speaking skills is to join a Toastmasters group in your city.

Agreed... go with Toastmasters!

Well, I'll probably use this thread to get some advice.

So during my graduate coursework (CS), there were a couple of courses which required the class to review and present various papers. When my turn would come, I would prepare really well, make good notes and I would say reasonably fine slides. But then, when I would present, I would just lose the context when going over the slides. Eventually I started keeping more text on the slides and would end up reading off it, which is awful for the listeners.

Is this stage fright? Or perhaps poor memory? Or something else may be?

I heard it helps if you select a few people who seem to pay the most attention—better sitting at far end of audience to make sure you don't lower your voice too much—and ‘talk’ to those few listeners, cycling between them.

I encountered this once and I suspect it was because I was thinking about presentation, not focused on delivering my point to the audience, not caring about it enough. Possibly also the audience that time didn't really care about my point. (Hard to find origin, as factors seem to worsen one another: you care less → audience cares less → … → your thoughts wander, you lose context.)

Did you practice, like get a buddy to watch while you gave the presentation beforehand? That step was very important for me, I saw where I would get off track and the biggest weaknesses of where my presentation was unclear.

I am a pretty strong introvert, not in the sense that I have a problem socializing with others or even communicating in a leisure/professional setting, but rather that doing so takes a lot of energy. I don't actively seek out opportunities to get up in front of people and be the center of attention. Over the past year I've spoken a lot publicly for moderately lengthy periods -- maybe 45 mins at a time -- and I agree with the sentiment that you just get better/more comfortable with experience. If you feel nervous before you speak you are the norm and not the exception. To quote Jerry Seinfeld: "“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I prescribe to Malcolm Gladwell's method of preparation [1] in that I write out every single word of my talks beforehand and more-or-less memorize them. It's not my explicit goal to memorize every word, but I go over the words enough that that's essentially what happens. I actually end up memorizing key sentences and phrases more than words. Even moments that I seemingly "ad-lib" to the audience -- jokes, side comments, "random" anecdotes -- are written out beforehand. That way when I'm in the moment I can focus on delivery and not content.

I think the biggest driver to my anxiety of public speaking was the possibility of sounding stupid, but as long as I have the confidence that I've written out a good argument beforehand then that goes out the window. I stick to the script because I know the script will work.

As far as mentality goes, there is no better feeling than looking out into an audience of people and see them staring back at you, listening to every word. No smartphones out and no sleeping, just attention. While I still get a little nervous, it's nowhere near what it once was, and I actually look forward to connecting with those whom I've been invited to speak with. My excitement for that connection has started to trump my nerves.

Clearly I'm not in the camp of "don't prepare and just go wing it, it'll be more natural" because it really opens up the door for panic-induced disaster. And I really hate sitting in a talk that the speaker is clearly unprepared for. It's unprofessional and disrespectful. If people are going to give you the respect of their undivided attention, give them the respect of real preparation.

[1] http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/2011/01/26/public-speaki...

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