16 Ways to Overcome Stage Fright When Speaking in Public


speaking in public

There are two types of people in the world: those who love speaking in public and those who are scared stiff at the thought of it.

Performance anxiety and stage fright are perfectly normal phenomena that occur to many people. It is important for you to understand what stage fright is, so that you can fully overcome it.

Stage fright or performance anxiety is a persistent phobia which is aroused in an individual when required to perform in front of an audience.

So how do you overcome stage fright when speaking in public?

Know Your Stuff

Nothing will stop stage fright in it’s gripping tracks like being prepared. Know your content, your speech and more importantly your audience. If you know what you are talking about then you have no reason to be nervous.

Understanding your topic will enable you to speak more naturally and hence more confidently. Also, should a technical hitch occur, this won’t faze you as you are already confident on the subject.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Knowing your stuff helps, but it doesn’t necessarily eradicate the problem. You need to practice as much as you can before the performance or public speaking d-day.

Really know your content inside out and practice (preferably in front of a live audience) as much as possible to build your confidence.

Talk Yourself Down

You need to realize that even though stage fright is “all in the mind,” the fear manifests itself in physical ways. The best offence is to change your negative talk. Stop worrying about, “What if I forget the content?”

Change that into positive talk like, “What if I am great at this?” It may sound simplistic or too easy, but positive affirmation will go a long way in reducing stage fright when speaking in public.

Wallow in the Worst

If you can’t calm yourself down with positive talk, then maybe it is time you thought about the worst case scenario. Once you do this, you’ll realize that the worst case scenario isn’t really that bad. This might help calm your nerves.

Visualize the Outcome

Call it what you will: reflection, visualization, meditation. Whatever you call it, just do it. Spend time visualizing yourself giving a perfect presentation and speaking in public – filled with humor, warmth, confidence and intelligence.

The more you imagine being great, the more likely you will achieve it.

16 Ways to Overcome Stage Fright When Speaking in Public

It is Not All About You

Though you might feel like everyone is out to laugh, criticize or judge you, that is not the case. Get over the feeling that the world is going to hang on your every mistake.

Focus on your speech, audience and what they deserve from you. This will ease the pressure that is already accumulating.

When Things go Wrong

Sooner or later, something will go wrong. Your projector or microphone might stop working. If you already know your content, then chances are that this won’t faze you as much. If, for instance, your microphone stops working, don’t stress over it, carry on with a louder voice. Chances are the technical people are already stressing and working to sort the problem out, so you getting worried over the same issue won’t help.

Keep Calm, Don’t Rush It

Don’t rush your presentation. Start slow and allow yourself time to get into a comfortable pace. You need time to get used to the audience and the audience also needs time to get used to you.

Focus on Getting Through the First 5 Minutes

Imagine your entire presentation is only five minutes long. This will make it less stressful. Focus on just getting through the first five minutes and by this time you will have already calmed down and the rest is downhill.

Never Apologize for Being Nervous

Three quarters of the time, no one will notice you are nervous. Why tell them? You may feel yourself shaking and shivering, but your audience might not be aware of it. Don’t mention it. It will make your audience nervous too and they will be too worried about your performance to get much out of your presentation.

16 Ways to Overcome Stage Fright When Speaking in Public

Don’t Share Your Mistakes

You have prepared, practiced and feel good about your speech or presentation. Suddenly, on stage you realize you mixed the order of topics or you forgot an important point. But remember, you’re the only one who knows about this. Your audience doesn’t. So, don’t make them aware of a mistake that they didn’t even know existed. If you bring it up, some people might start looking for more holes, which ultimately distracts from the whole purpose of your presentation in the first place.

Arrive Early

Obviously, if you are late, this will only heighten your anxiety. Arrive early and acclimate to your surroundings. You can even check out the stage and the auditorium as get yourself used to the environment.

Stretch

If you are nervous, odds are your body will be stiff and your muscles tight. Fifteen minutes before speaking in public and going on stage, do a few stretches. This will loosen the tense muscles and relax your body.

Breathe

Nervousness is always accompanied by fast, short breaths and if this is not addressed, it will throw you off balance. Minutes before you go on stage, take some slow, deep breaths, so that by the time you get to the stage your breathing is relaxed.

Double Check Everything

Do you have a laptop or notes? Check that everything works. When you walk on stage and suddenly realize that you forgot your notes, it’s too late. Of course, your nerves will take over. Know your speech or presentation so well that should this happen, you can continue without a hitch.

Don’t Fight Your Stage Fright … Work With It

You have to expect and accept the fact that you will feel anxious, especially the first few minutes of your presentation. The more you resist your anxiety, the more it will work against you.  Again, focus on the presentation when speaking in public and the anxiety will slowly ease off.

StrategyDescription
Know Your Stuff- Be thoroughly prepared with knowledge about your topic, speech, and audience. - Confidence in your subject matter reduces nervousness.
Practice, Practice, Practice- Practice your content extensively, preferably in front of a live audience. - Builds confidence and familiarity with your material.
Talk Yourself Down- Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations. - Shift from worrying about forgetting content to believing in your abilities.
Wallow in the Worst- Consider worst-case scenarios to realize they aren't as bad as they seem. - Helps alleviate anxiety by putting challenges in perspective.
Visualize the Outcome- Spend time visualizing a successful presentation. - Visualization enhances your belief in delivering an excellent speech.
It is Not All About You- Shift focus away from self-consciousness. - Concentrate on delivering value to your audience. - Reduces pressure and anxiety.
When Things go Wrong- Expect occasional hiccups and technical glitches. - Stay calm and adapt to unexpected challenges.
Keep Calm, Don’t Rush It- Start your presentation at a comfortable pace. - Allows time to adjust to the audience and for the audience to connect with you.
Focus on Getting Through the First 5 Minutes- Imagine your presentation as just a five-minute task initially. - Helps overcome initial nervousness, as the rest becomes easier.
Never Apologize for Being Nervous- Avoid mentioning nervousness as it may draw attention to it. - Your audience might not even notice.
Don’t Share Your Mistakes- Don't draw attention to minor errors. - Your audience may not be aware of them, and it distracts from your message.
Arrive Early- Arrive with ample time to acclimate to the venue. - Check equipment and become familiar with the surroundings.
Stretch- Do some gentle stretches before speaking to relax tense muscles. - Helps alleviate physical discomfort associated with nervousness.
Breathe- Practice deep, slow breaths to maintain balance and composure. - Counteracts fast, shallow breaths caused by nervousness.
Double Check Everything- Verify the functionality of equipment, notes, or materials before your presentation. - Ensures you're well-prepared even in unexpected situations.
Don’t Fight Your Stage Fright … Work With It- Acknowledge and accept that initial anxiety is normal. - Resistance may intensify nervousness, so focus on your presentation and let anxiety naturally diminish.

16 Ways to Overcome Stage Fright When Speaking in Public

Connecting With Your Audience: Building Rapport

Building a strong connection with your audience is essential for effective public speaking. Here are some techniques to help you establish rapport and engage your listeners:

Eye Contact

  • Maintain eye contact with various members of your audience. This conveys confidence and shows that you’re speaking directly to them.

Smile

  • A warm smile is inviting and can help put both you and your audience at ease. It signals friendliness and approachability.

Use Humor Wisely

  • Appropriate humor can break the ice and create a more relaxed atmosphere. However, avoid offensive or potentially alienating jokes.

Share Personal Stories

  • Relatable anecdotes from your own experiences can humanize you as a speaker. They help the audience connect with you on a personal level.

Ask Questions

  • Encourage audience participation by asking questions or seeking their opinions. This interaction makes your presentation more engaging.

Empathize

  • Show understanding and empathy toward your audience’s perspective and concerns. Address their needs and interests in your presentation.

Use Inclusive Language

  • Avoid divisive or exclusive language. Make everyone in your audience feel included and valued.

Speak Clearly and Slowly

  • Clear articulation and a moderate speaking pace ensure that your message is easily understood. Rushed speech can create confusion and disconnect.

Body Language

  • Maintain an open posture, use expressive gestures, and avoid crossing your arms. Your body language should reinforce your message positively.

Be Authentic

  • Authenticity builds trust. Be yourself, share your passion, and speak from the heart. Authenticity is contagious and encourages connection.
TechniqueDescription
Eye Contact- Maintain eye contact with various audience members. - Conveys confidence and personal connection.
Smile- A warm smile is welcoming and fosters a relaxed atmosphere. - Signals friendliness and approachability.
Use Humor Wisely- Appropriate humor can break the ice and create a comfortable environment. - Avoid offensive or alienating jokes.
Share Personal Stories- Relatable anecdotes from your experiences humanize you as a speaker. - Connects with the audience on a personal level.
Ask Questions- Encourage audience participation by asking questions or seeking opinions. - Enhances engagement and interaction.
Empathize- Show understanding and empathy toward the audience's perspective and concerns. - Addresses their needs and interests.
Use Inclusive Language- Avoid divisive or exclusive language. - Ensures that all audience members feel included and valued.
Speak Clearly and Slowly- Clear articulation and moderate pace ensure message comprehension. - Rushed speech can lead to confusion and disconnection.
Body Language- Maintain an open posture, use expressive gestures, and avoid crossed arms. - Positive body language reinforces your message.
Be Authentic- Authenticity builds trust and connection. - Be yourself, share your passion, and speak sincerely from the heart. - Authenticity is contagious and encourages audience connection.

16 Ways to Overcome Stage Fright When Speaking in Public

Handling Unexpected Challenges: Adapting on Stage

Public speaking often comes with unexpected challenges that can test your composure. Here’s how to adapt and handle common surprises during your presentation:

Technical Glitches

  • Prepare for technical issues by having a backup plan. Bring printed materials or slides on a USB drive. Stay calm, and inform the audience of the problem while technical support works on a solution.

Audience Disruptions

  • If disruptions occur, address them calmly and professionally. You can acknowledge the disruption, request cooperation, or even use humor to defuse tension.

Memory Lapses

  • If you forget part of your speech, take a moment to breathe and regain composure. Review your notes discreetly, and continue with your presentation.

Time Constraints

  • Keep an eye on the clock during your speech. If you’re running out of time, prioritize your key points and conclude succinctly. Practicing your speech within the allotted time is crucial.

Unfamiliar Surroundings

  • Familiarize yourself with the venue before your presentation. Arriving early allows you to adjust to the space, test equipment, and ensure everything runs smoothly.

Unresponsive Audience

  • If your audience seems disengaged, try to re-engage them with a rhetorical question, a thought-provoking statement, or an interactive activity.

Physical Discomfort

  • Overcome physical discomfort by practicing relaxation techniques, staying hydrated, and wearing comfortable clothing. Maintain good posture and move around the stage to reduce tension.

Unexpected Questions

  • During Q&A sessions, be prepared for unexpected questions. If you don’t know the answer, it’s okay to admit it and offer to follow up later.

Loss of Focus

  • If you lose your train of thought or become distracted, pause briefly to regroup. Use transition phrases or visuals to guide you back on track.

Feedback and Criticism

  • Embrace feedback, whether positive or constructive. It helps you improve as a speaker. Respond professionally to criticism, and thank your audience for their input.

Handling these challenges gracefully demonstrates your adaptability and professionalism as a speaker. By preparing for the unexpected, you’ll boost your confidence and maintain your poise on stage.

Podium Mic Photo via Shutterstock



Antony Maina Antony Maina is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 8 years. Antony covers business and technology and is also a successful freelance writer.