What can you do about stage fright? The first thing to do is watch this 1969 movie about managing stage fright. It starts with a groovy light jazz soundtrack, the kind of music Joe Mannix would relax to after a long day of fist-fighting.
The film has been expertly restored by the incredible Fran Blanche, who uploaded it to YouTube.
The film begins by explaining the physio-chemical fear response triggered by having to speak in front of a crowd and includes an animation of the cardiovascular system kicking into high gear. "The release of a temporary oversupply of adrenaline triggered by fear causes a circulatory speed-up, a kind of instant re-gearing for a higher level of performance. That's why seasoned performers like concert artists, welcome the butterflies that come backstage, they know they'll give a higher level of performance because of them."
Why do our bodies go into fear mode when we are about to speak? The narrator has an answer: "You get it because you care about what others think of you. Your life may not be at stake. But your sense of pride of self-importance certainly is. You look at them. And you imagine that they're bored. They're thinking how funny you look. Or they're disagreeing with you. You imagine it."
Next, come the coping tips:
- Begin by concentrating on something besides yourself and your shortcomings
- Remember is that you wouldn't have been asked to speak if someone didn't want to hear what you have to say
- By concentrating on communication, you do away with your consciousness of self.
- Spend as much time as you can, developing what you have to say. Find out all there is to know about your subject. Keep digging for facts and information, much more than you can possibly use. Why? Because some of what you dig out is going to be odd interesting, unusual, the very kind of hooks that will make your material interesting and important to your audience. Inspiration rarely if ever comes out of the blue. Inspiration is a byproduct of the perspiration you pour into research and preparation.
- Practice, develop your confidence in your outline or notes by actual tests before an audience that can be both critical and appreciative.
Having given a lot of talks, I agree with all of them, especially knowing your material. When I used to give talks about the maker movement, I was totally relaxed because I was confident that I knew a lot of about the subject.
Many of these same tips are in the excellent book, Ted Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking.