Public Speaking 101 - How To Overcome Stage Fright

It doesn't matter if you're an introvert or an extrovert, stage fright is a common feeling among all individuals once you have to be in front of an audience, talking, presenting or acting. But there are instances where you have to be in the spotlight or even want to be - to overcome stage fright and deliver a smooth presentation here are some tips that helped me over the years. 

To clear things up, I'am an introvert but through hobbies like playing music or theatrical performances I learned to be an extrovert if I needed to be one. 

I learned to be an extrovert if I needed to be one. 

Let me know if the following tips help you or if you made a similar experience. 

1) The more the merrier

The bigger the audience, the better for your presentation. Although you might feel it is the other way around, that's not true. Just think about it, imagine yourself starting with a joke, naturally you are unsure if it's funny - but the possibility that some might find it funny is higher, the higher the number in the audience is. So when you are holding a keynote in front of the management board, that could be just three people. Would you want to try something like that in a small room with them? Now imagine you are speaking to 300 people, sometimes it only takes one funny chuckle and the whole room will fill up with laughter. Do not underestimate numbers. Get comfortable with this idea and always try to find a bigger audience.

2) Preparation is key

What is the worst thing that could possbily happen? You forget your main point, electrical fallout, slides are missing, you get called in the middle of your presentation...? You need to prepare your presentation, what you are going to say and how to react to certain events. Just imagine you're playing in a band on a concert and suddenly the drummer loses a stick or the guitarist breaks a string - have you ever seen an event like that, what do the other musicians do? They keep on playing. Don't get startled by small events or mistakes that might happen, you are only human. Even if something goes wrong, try to integrate it in your presentation with humor or ignore it all together. If somebody's phone starts ringing you could say: "Thanks for reminding us why one should mute their phone in certain situations" or something similar, say it with a smile and then continue. Do not feel angry or stop your presentation, just casually go on. Time is money.

3) Don't be afraid to say "I don't know"

Depending on your subject, people might ask questions. They might ask easy questions, thy might ask very delicate one, they might even ask something completely random just to toy with you. Don't panic, if you can't answer a question, just say that you do not know the answer but that you would love to do some more research afterwards and get back to that person, if it's a question that has relevance of course. This might also help getting you some interesting contacts afterwards by exchanging business cards.

4) Be passionate - People will remember emotions not facts

When you think about certain events in your life - which memories are the strongest? Probably events that had a lasting influence in your life or are connected to emotions. So, when something speaks to us in an emotional way we are better at remembering those events. Make your audience feel something - it depends on your subject, but it can be joy, anger, awe, nostalgia etc. pp. Try to connect your facts with emotions and stories that people can relate to, this will vastly improve your impact on the audience and will make you a more influential speaker.

5) Practise everywhere

If you are afraid to hit the big stage or  haven't had the chance yet, you can practise daily your public speaking skills. You can take the stage in many circumstances like during meetings, lunch with colleagues, at a night out with friends, the list goes on. Whenever you see yourself in a situation with more than 1-2 people listening it is virtually public speaking. It's even easier when you are on a trade fair and have to attract people, make sure to speak to more than one person and try to speak to a crowd, the more people stop and gather at your booth. This is not only good for business, but good for your skills as well.

6) Learn about your mannerisms - record yourself

Possibly one of the hardest tipps you can get, but also one of the most effective ones. Practise in front of a mirror, let your smartphone record you or ask a friend to film you. Analyse the material and try to figure out, what you are doing because you wanted to (point at a graph) and what you didn't want to, like walking frantically from left to right, scratch your nose or talk very fast. Then work on that. Every gesture, your mimic and movement should be controlled by you. Such mannerisms can portray you as less competent or as nervous even though you don't feel that way. If you talk to fast, make sure to take active pauses, when you change the slide or when you said one sentence, take a breath before you continue. Another trick, especially in the beginning, is to make broad and slow gestures - this way your body has a way to compensate the nervous tension and you will feel much better after letting it out for 1-2 minutes.

7) FYI - The audience wants you to succeed

In the end, one thing is clear: the audience wants you to succeed. It doesn't matter who you are or where you are (generally speaking), people that take the time to sit and listen want to have a great time and are interested in the topic. So whatever might happen, people will support you. Even if everything goes wrong, people will cheer you on. It takes bravery to stand in front of an audience, people will reward that bravery. Just relax, take a breath and start and everything will go its way.

Do you find those tips helpful? What are your routines before you have to go on stage? Let me know in the comments below and feel free to reach out to me.

Thanks for reading!

Sebastian