BY: Julia Wojnar
If you are like most people, there’s a good chance that you’re afraid of public speaking. How afraid? Well, Psychology Today reports that more people claim to be afraid of public speaking than they are of death itself. This primal fear is linked to the fear of rejection. But here’s the dirty little truth that no one ever told you about this fear.
The truth is that EVERY speaker feels nervous when they get on stage.
Mark Twain once said “There are two types of speakers. Those that are nervous and those that are liars.” The fact is that feeling nervous when you get on stage is NATURAL. It’s a biological response to the strong influx of energy coming towards you.
So what can we do to ensure that our nerves don’t hold us back from giving an amazing speech?
Below are some tips that I like to give my clients every time they feel immense anxiety or nerves when they go on stage:
First – Reframe the fear.
The energy that we call fear is our body’s way of signaling that we are stepping into our power. The best speakers know how to harness this power to their advantage. Think about your speech as a gift for your audience. Remember that the audience is there because they want to hear what you have to say and they want to see you succeed.
Focus on being in service of your audience.
When we are operating from a place of giving service, self-consciousness melts away. Instead of worrying about what you look or sound like, shift your attention to your audience. This will allow you to fully step into your power and deliver at your best. Doing so also helps you realize how your worries are all in your head and that the audience isn’t as focused on you personally, as they are on the message that you have to share.
This next tip can seem a little counterintuitive at first. Most people think that when they feel this type of nervous energy, they need to calm down. Instead, I advise speakers to channel their nervous energy into excitement. In her book “Quiet,” author Susan Cain describes the scientific research which supports this idea. She explains how physiologically, our body has two systems – a “Go” system and a “Stop” system. Your “Go” system revs you up and makes you feel excited, while your “Stop” system slows you down and makes you feel cautious. Often when speakers feel intense anxiety on stage, it can seem impossible to completely calm down this nervous energy. But by converting it into excitement, you allow your nerves to work for you rather than against you.
So how do you do this, specifically?
Before you go on stage, try some of the power poses that social psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses in her famous TED Talk. Standing in the “Wonder Woman” pose (with your legs outstretched and your hands are on your hips) for just a couple of minutes before you go onstage literally changes your hormones to prepare your body for this moment. Your adrenaline increases, while the stress hormone cortisol decreases. Your “Go” System will kick into high gear and you’ll automatically feel more confident when you step out on stage.
I draw my next tip for increasing confidence on stage from the years I’ve spent as an actress performing in front of hundreds of people. When actors perform, their job is to fully embody the character that they are playing. I learned that you can adopt this same principle of “acting as if” to your public speaking. If you act “as if” you’re taking on the character of a confident speaker, you can actually feel the difference as you amplify your best self on stage.
With these new tools, I urge you to get out there and claim your rightful place on stage! And if you found these tips helpful, please share the love. The world needs your voice!
Julia Wojnar is the founder of Unleash Your Presence, where she helps entrepreneurs learn how to rock their speaking engagements. She loves to travel, but is proud to call New York City home. Come say hi and learn more over at www.unleashyourpresence.com.