Nov 1, 2012

10 Tips to Reduce Stage Fright (Nervousness)

If presentations make you nervous, here are 10 tips to help you. These tips are from the book 'Speaking Up without Freaking Out' by Matt Abrahams. I reviewed the book in my last post. Many of these 10 tips will apply in your case and help you overcome nervousness.

#1 You are not alone
Tell yourself that being anxious is normal. Even the most seasoned presenters do get tense and nervous before a presentation. This fear is what makes you prepare well and do a good job. If you are feeling nervous, tell yourself, "This is the way I should be feeling. This is normal."

#2 Memorize the first 30 seconds of your talk
Your anxiety is maximum at the start of your presentation. You are nervous and worried that you will forget your content. If you memorize the start of your talk then you will surely start confidently and well begun is half done. As you move further, your anxiety will keep coming down. I can personally vouch for this technique since I have used it myself.

#3 Practice your talk till it becomes easy
Practice a presentation so many times that you don't have the fear of forgetting. By practice, I mean actually give the entire talk (with slides) and do it many times over. Do not memorise the content, goes go through the entire talk and keep it extempore every time. The key messages need to be memorised not how they will be said. Will you feel anxious before a presentation which you have practised 10 times?

#4 Relax yourself before your talk
Deep breathing will help you relax yourself before you go to present. You can also try sequential muscle relaxation, wherein you focus on each part of your body and try to relax that area. These techniques will make you calm and composed.

#5 Write down your worries
Write down everything you are nervous about. What are you worried about? That you will forget your content. That you will skip something important. That you will be asked a tough question. That your video will not work. Writing down all your worries on a piece of paper, will make you relaxed.

Now make a small table. On the left, write down your worries and on the right the chance it will happen (very high, high, low, very low). You will suddenly realise that most of your fears are just in your head and are unlikely to happen. This exercise will calm your mind.

#6 Do not change your normal routine
If you sleep 8 hours a day, then do not sleep 5 hours the night before the presentation. Make sure you do everything on the presentation day, which you do on a regular day. Do not break any routine and cause undue stress to yourself. Eat the regular stuff and sleep normally.

#7 Prepare for contingencies
Certain events happening during your presentation can also make you nervous. Your PPT is not working. Your wireless remote has run out of cell (battery). Your projector is causing problems. Think of most problems you could face during a presentation and have a contingency plan to manage the situation. If your projector does not work, carry handouts. Also remember that something can always go wrong and you cannot prepare for everything. So accept the fact that life is unpredictable and move on with your presentation. Being nervous does not help.

#8 Divert your attention away from your presentation
While you are awaiting your turn to speak, you will be constantly thinking about your presentation and will begin to get nervous. In this situation, take your mind away from your presentation and play a video game or listen to music. You can also spend some time with a person who cares for you and with whom you feel comfortable. This will ease out your nervousness. Do whatever takes away your focus from the presentation to something else (something which you enjoy).

#9 Take the challenge
You know you are the tenth and the last speaker. You are at the venue along with the organisers. Volunteer to speak first. This courageous act is known to reduce fear. Take your fear head on. Imagine finishing early and then enjoying the talks of the balance 9 speakers. If you speak the last, will you be able to really enjoy the talk of others. You will be so preoccupied. So take the plunge and reap the rewards.

#10 Analyse your fears
There are three kinds of nervousness; One, audience based. Two, state based and three situation based. Audience based anxiety is caused because of the kind of people sitting in the audience. An entrepreneur will get nervous when big investors are sitting in his audience.

State based anxiety is linked to your goal. Your final objective can make you nervous. The stakes of your presentation are so high and you are scared of failure.

Situation based anxiety is the environment at the event. If there is a very large gathering, you can become nervous because of that. Had it been a gathering of five people, you would not have felt nervous at all.

Find out what is making you nervous, and then use techniques to handle your nervousness. Know the problem and then seek a solution. Just because a technique works for me does not mean it will work for you as well.

To understand each of these 10 tips in further detail, I suggest you read the book. Check it out here and read my review here.

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