Stage fright or performance anxiety is the most popular and well known negative human behaviour. Stage fright is considered to be a type of phobia which affects your performance in front of audiences or even a camera.
This negative impact on your performance can be a major setback which threatens to destroy self-confidence and affects academic or professional success. Before we identify how to overcome stage fright, it is important that we understand it.
What is Stage Fright?
Stage fright is a type of anxiety disorder with unknown causes. It may be due to a combination of the individual’s genes, surrounding stresses, and changes in their brain. Alternatively, it may be hereditary.
When Do People Get Stage Fright?
Stage fright can affect ordinary people during job presentations, as well as experienced performers like actors, musicians or politicians. It may precede or accompany live performances or presentations.
Some people even have chronic stage fright meaning they are highly anxious speaking even to small groups, like in a meeting.
What Happens When You Experience Stage Fright?
As well as mental symptoms, stage fright usually has physical manifestations. These include:
- Panic and fear,
- Cold, sweaty, numb or tingling hands or feet,
- Irregular or strong heart beats,
- Shortness of breath,
- Dry mouth, stuttering, and shaky voice,
- Dizziness and fainting,
- Increased blood pressure which causes excessive sweating and blushing.
How to Overcome Stage Fright?
Some people think that stage fright is something you can get over by training to improve your public performance skills. Unfortunately, this is often not quite enough.
Generally, you must confront yourself and uncover your deepest fears that are stopping you from being the centre of attention. What’s more is that you must learn to accept yourself and eliminate any feeling of obligation to prove yourself to others.
You should not avoid being the centre of attention even though it may give you immediate relief, as this reinforces stage fright in the long run. Learning how to overcome stage fright is an elaborate process that requires dedication and practice.
Your first step should be to identify bad habits and eliminate them to pave the road to success. Here are some steps that will help put you on the right track:
1. Quitting Negative Thoughts
We’re all guilty of over-thinking situations. And one of the worst ways to become anxious is to think of what might go wrong. This in itself is often the cause of failure of the performance or presentation.
On the contrary, you should focus on positive thoughts that boost your confidence and calm yourself.
2. Shifting your focus
Instead of worrying about your performance, you should instead focus on the importance of conveying a message to the audience. This not only helps you overcome stage fright, but it also helps you focus on your content.
In turn, this ensures that your speech is polished and understandable.
With enough practice, any task can become a breeze. If you practice your next presentation well, chances are it’ll just flow effortlessly which will help boost your confidence and leave you looking forward to your next presentation.
On the day of the presentation, it is a good idea to do exercises that relax your body. These exercises will not only remove tension and stress but they will also help boost your confidence.
It is generally a good idea to do some yoga or meditate to stretch your muscles and calm your mind.
5. Avoid caffeine
Caffeine is historically known to cause nervousness and boost anxiety and that’s exactly why you should avoid it on your big day. It also causes frequent trips to the bathroom. Instead, aim for a warm drink which will help you relax or soothe your vocal chords.
Sometimes you can find yourself confused about how you should present a certain topic. This is when it is a good idea to see how others did it to get some inspiration. Thanks to the internet there are millions of speeches available to guide you through your own presentation.
How to Boost Your Confidence
The second step of learning how to overcome stage fright is to boost your confidence. If you improve your mental image of yourself, you’ll have a much easier time presenting to a crowd without worrying about how you look.
The best way to boost your confidence is to think positively about yourself. By eliminating negative thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts that emphasize your points of strengths, you can be a lot more confident in front of people.
Have a sit down with yourself and list your positive traits. These traits are what you should be focusing on instead of criticizing yourself. This might seem like a lot of work, but we have just the right books to help you through your journey.
The Power of Positive Thinking
This book was written by Dr. Peale in 1952. It is considered to be the basis on which self-improvement was established. This book aims to prove to you that positive thinking goes a long way in terms of your progression as a person.
It aims to prove to you the importance of positive thinking through the use of real-life examples of success. This is a refreshing alternative from other books that simply state what needs to be done with little convincing.
Many have praised the book for its effectiveness in helping them believe in themselves which has caused the book to sell over 5 million copies throughout the years.
The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem
Dr. Nathaniel Branden wrote this book with the intention of giving the readers a scientifically accurate way to improve their self esteem. Being a psychologist, he wrote a very methodical and efficient process to help you achieve your vision.
This book is divided into six sections that the author believes are the building blocks to a healthy self esteem.
Here is a brief explanation of each section to help you get started:
1. Living Consciously
Basically, this section encourages the reader to become aware of their current life. Before anything can be fixed, you first need to identify the problem. Once you become aware of your every-day life you’ll start noticing some flaws that you’ll naturally avoid.
Being conscious not only helps you identify your flaws but it also lets you avoid them which goes a long way when you’re trying to learn how to overcome stage fright.
This next section is all about accepting yourself and your thought process. Once you accept yourself for who you are, your mind will spend less time criticizing yourself and more time on self improvement.
Overall, this allows you to become a much more refined version of yourself which will surely boost your self-esteem and make it much easier to talk in front of a crowd.
This section is all about taking control over your life. It teaches you that excuses will get you nowhere in life and that you must stop viewing yourself as a victim and instead take initiative.
Assertiveness is often a term used to describe taking initiative. It implies confidence and thus it fits quite well in this plan. The reader is encouraged to fully accept themselves for who they are in order to begin improving themselves.
This basically complements the previous pillars and put you on the first step towards the new you.
5. Living Purposefully
Being successful is all about setting goals and achieving them. Even when it comes to self-improvement, it is extremely important that you set realistic goals and achieve them.
These goals will ensure that you are improving as a person while also boosting your confidence through the satisfaction of achieving a vision.
6. Personal Integrity
This last pillar is what separates confidence from deceit. People might be tempted to lie to others in order to impress them whoever, it is important to understand that these lies do nothing but set them up for failure.
For a person to be confident in themselves, it is important that they have morals that they can rely on. This will eliminate over-thinking about how others view us.
How to Get Better at Presenting
One of the best things you can do on your journey to learn how to overcome stage fright is to get good at presenting. This will give you the upper edge because you won’t have to worry about the crowd.
Preparing your Presentation
Before you start creating the slides for your presentation, it is generally a good idea to first create an overall vision of the message you are trying to convey. Here are a few things to consider when you’re designing your presentation.
You need to consider how familiar the audience is with the topic. This will allow you to choose the correct balance between informative and entertaining.
After all, you do not want to bore the audience which is why you need to properly analyze the expected audience beforehand in order to ensure that your message gets delivered in the most effective way.
Naturally, you need to keep the purpose of your presentation in mind when you are creating it.
This means that you need to know why you are presenting this topic to the audience. There are many types of presentations that you’ll have to do in your professional life but they usually have similar purposes.
You are either informing the audience about a decision that was made or you are informing the audience about a current situation in order to allow them to make an informed decision.
When designing a presentation, there are certain rules that you should follow in order to ensure that your presentation looks professional and streamlined.
Here are some of those rules that you should definitely keep in mind:
All of your slides need to have a consistent theme. The text needs to have a consistent font and size and your images need to be appropriately centered.
when it comes to colors, it is important to use complementary colours that work well together. There are many tools that will help you find colours that go well together while also capturing the attention of the eye.
It is generally accepted that your presentation should have more pictures than text because images can help the audience visualize the topic of interest much better. When necessary, you may also use animations however excessive use of animation might be offensive to the audience since it’s a waste of their time.
Practicing your Presentation
A great way to help you overcome stage fright is to rigorously practice until you perfect your speech. This will be a huge relief for you when you eventually have to present in front of an audience.
First of all, you need to memorize your speech. This will help your flow a lot since it will eliminate most awkward silences.
When you have the presentation memorized, you’ll know precisely where you currently are and how much is left which will allow you to adapt to the current audience in regards to their questions.
It is okay to have notes, however, they should simply act as reminders for your content or you risk sounding monotonous like you’re just reading aloud.
Carrying out the presentation
On your big day, make sure you eat light and avoid caffeine as it is notorious for causing anxiety. Make sure you are completely relaxed, do some meditation or yoga prior.
In addition, make sure that you arrive early in order to have enough time to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. You should try to turn any nervousness into the enthusiasm that’ll capture the audience’s attention.
Causes of Stage Fright: Key Takeaways
Presenting to an audience can often be incredibly difficult. However, this article has hopefully taught you how to overcome stage fright. It is important for you to realize that we are often too hard on ourselves and our criticism is usually unfair.
That is why it is important for you to accept yourself in order to work on emphasizing your strong point.
Like any other task, lots of practice and dedication will allow you to master the art of presenting which is sure to give you more confidence while also helping you on the journey of learning how to overcome stage fright.
For more articles regarding self-improvement, check out our article on The Art of Communication.