Have you ever been asked to speak up in front of an audience and felt your throat go dry and your hands go cold? A funny lump in your throat makes speaking difficult and you feel giddy and slightly nauseous. You wish you were anywhere in the world but there. You are experiencing stage fright- something that almost all of us have gone through at sometime or the other. But you can take heart because you are in good company - many of the top performers in the world get stage fright !
Stage fright can be defined as performance related anxiety. It is the fear that affects a person when about to face an audience. The symptoms can vary- they include a dry mouth, a tight throat, sweaty cold hands, nausea, rapid pulse, shaky knees and trembling lips.
Actually, stage fright isn`t the most accurate term because in fact, most of the fear occurs before you step on-stage. Once you`re up there, it usually goes away. Before we are about to appear on stage, thoughts like `am I looking alright?`, what if I forget my lines?" what if I stammer on stage?" usually make us nervous . But often, once we are on stage these feelings go away and we are able to perform well. However, this does not always happen to all of us and there many ways in which we can tackle stage fright.
To begin with, we must first change our opinion about audiences. Most of the time we tend to think that those watching our performances are our worst critics. But that is quite the opposite really- most of them want you to succeed and most of them are glad that they are not the ones up there speaking.
- Once you are up on stage to perform or speak try to pick out the most responsive listeners as soon as you can. They are the easiest to find because these are the ones that are listening attentively and alert. Their supportive non verbal communication can be an immense boost for you. Look at them frequently and speak as if you were talking to them.
- If possible involve the audience when you can. You can make it an interactive session by asking them to questions or join you .
- Practice thoroughly before hand so that at least your opening sentences come automatically even if you are nervous.
- Dress smartly and be aware that you are looking your best. It will boost your confidence immensely.
- Think of the audience as a group of friends you are chatting with.
- Use your normal accent and diction; a fake accent may make you nervous and flustered.
- Memorize the points you have to speak about thoroughly so that even if you forget the lines you can expand and speak on your own.
- Before you step on stage you can try relaxation techniques like listening to soft music or breathing deeply.
- Don`t hold your notes in your hnads- the audience can see them shake. Instead use small cards.
- If you are trembling, lean on a table or lectern or shift legs and move about a little. Also do learn to use eye contact with the audience. It will make you feel less isolated.
Most of all, remember that no matter how hard it may seem, nobody ever died from stage fright. But, according to surveys, many people would rather die than give a speech! You may never overcome stage fright completely but you can certainly learn to control it.