The biggest question I hear is: how do I get over stage fright?
Well, I’ve got two parts to that answer. Let me give you the first one: the most important part is being prepared. If you have really got your content of what you want to say in good shape – you’ve written it, you’ve outlined it (however you do it). You’ve practiced it, you’ve practiced it out loud like Winston Churchill did – he would do 12 hours of out loud preparation for those famous speeches. If you’ve done your homework – you know the subject, it’s well written, you practice it out loud, you know the audience and what they want – then you should have no trouble giving them that.
You’re the expert. You’ve done the work. They’re there to learn from you, to be inspired by you or motivated by you, so if you focus on giving to them and not worrying about being judged by them, just focus on what you can bring to the audience and that will do half the job of getting over stage fright.
And now for part two…
We were talking about stage fright and why it’s such a negative emotion for many speakers. One of the most important things you can remember is that the audience wants to hear what you have to say. That’s why they’re there! They have something to learn from you or or be inspired by you or motivated.
They want you to succeed. And yet, because of our nerves, we forget that and we think we’ve got to be perfect and not make a mistake.
Well, let me tell you, I have been imperfect and made many a mistake – and it has not hurt my presentation. Not at all!
Recently I was speaking to a group and I got a nosebleed 30 seconds before I was introduced! And I went ahead, went out and gave the presentation, told them I was having a little problem. They were on my side. I was more human to them. It was not a problem. I didn’t have to be perfect. I just had to be real and authentic.
So, if you remember that you can go out and be your full, authentic self and give them the gift of your presentation. If you focus on what you have to give, not what they’re gonna think about you, then you’re going to be so successful. I guarantee it.
Most people are terrified…
… at the idea of having to speak off-the-cuff – extemporaneously – to answer a question from the boss, maybe.
And yet, the truth is, if you’re being asked to speak off-the-cuff, it’s because you know something about the subject. You’re almost never going to be asked to talk about something you don’t know anything about.
So, I’m saying that you just need to concentrate on one thing. If you’re asked to speak, think of the most important thing you know about what they’re asking you. Focus on that. Give it to your full effort and then stop. You probably covered it, if you’ve done one thing well.
If they want more, they’re going to ask you for more and then you’ll hit the next point that you know. Almost always we have the answer in us. We just get terrified by, “oh my gosh, how am I going to be perfect?”
Listen, it’s in you. You know the subject. You’re not going to be talking about something you don’t know. Just trust yourself. Be real, and answer the question with the knowledge you already have.
One of the biggest things that most people fear is that that horrible nervous stomach-turning anxiety that comes up before they speak.
And, it doesn’t even matter whether they have prepared, memorized — even got it word for word. Many people still feel that stomach-turning anxiety.
Here’s the secret. I believe if you’re speaking to a group, you’re there because you have something important that you want to teach, motivate, inspire… you want to give the audience something.
If you focus on giving to them something that you know about — or else, you wouldn’t be speaking — if you focus on that: what you can give, as opposed to how you look, or what they’re gonna think about you. If you focus on giving as opposed to being received, then it’s gonna make all the difference in the world.
Just how can I get this important idea, concept, or inspirational thought — how can I get it across? Focus on that.
Focus on giving and you won’t be worried so much about what they think.
One of the great fears of most people when they speak in public is, what do I do if I can’t remember what’s coming next?
Well, you pause. We pause when we speak regularly to our friends, to our neighbors in business. We pause. I just did like I’m doing right now, and you know something.
The world doesn’t end because that’s the way we normally talk, but when we get up in front of a group, you know what happens. We think we have to be perfect. We can’t have a pause wrong. Have a pause like you normally would. Don’t throw in a or so or any of the other words that we just love to fill in that space. They are not necessary. They detract. They become a habit.
So pause, enjoy the pause. Look at the audience when you pause and take your time just as you would in real life.
The fear of speaking to big audiences is just that — a fear — it’s not a reality.
Because the truth is there’s no difference in speaking to 10 or 20 people whose faces you can see and whose reactions you can gauge and speaking to 200 or 500 or a thousand. The difference is primarily with a large audience. You’re going to have so many lights in your face that you’re most likely not going to be able to see their faces. Now, for some people that’s a plus. You’re not going to have to worry about how you’re going over.
Hopefully you’ll hear their response, but the actual truth is your message is the same. Whether it’s a small group or a large group, you want to connect. You want to be real. You want to give them the gift that you have in your presentation, and so for many people speaking in front of a large audience, for you don’t see them is actually easier. And for some of us like me who love the response, I like to see their faces, but either way the gift is the same and it’s yours to give.
Some people are more frightened of speaking to five or 10 people in a small conference room, than they would be the speaking to 200 to 500 people in a giant auditorium.
Well, I happened to be one who loves speaking to small groups because I love the feedback I get by seeing their faces, by connecting with them, looking in and seeing their body language, seeing the smile I always look for the faces were feeding me. Here’s what they look like. They’re going
nodding, smiling, eyes twinkling, connecting. If you see the faces connecting with you, that means you’re doing something right and it really feeds you, so actually a small group can give you so much wonderful feedback. Now, if you see some negative feedback in the small group, it’s going to be right in front of you. Then you can make the same kind of adjustments that you would any other place. If you need to speak louder or you need some interaction, whatever you need to do to change, you’ll be able to tell right away in front of you, but for the most part they’re going to be with you. And I love the fact that in a small group you had that chance to do the magic of speaking, which is to connect and respond and have some fun with the audience. That’s really what it’s all about.
Because of a natural fear of speaking, most people start off their presentations by speaking about twice as fast as they normally would.
And usually, within a minute they are at their normal rate of speed. It’s that first 30 seconds to 60 seconds that you’ve really got to be aware of slowing down and speaking at your normal rate of speed.
So, the last thing you want to tell yourself – other than, “I’m going to have a great time and they’re going to love me,” – is, “I’m not going to speak too fast at the beginning.”
One way to do this is to greet the audience. If you’re going to say “Hello, how are you?” You’ve got to really mean it and you’ve got to pause and let them tell you…!
In other words, “Hello, how are you?” <pause… pause… pause…> Let them respond. “Good. I’m feeling great today, too. We’re going to have fun here today!” See how much, much slower I’m going? And then, I can get into my subject.
Give yourself every reason to start off at a normal rate of speed, and if you do that, you’re not going to have to worry about talking too fast.