If you’ve ever felt you were the only one fearful about making a presentation, be assured, you’re not alone. In fact, you have most of the world agonizing with you.
For many people deciding what to say, how to say it, then standing up in front of others is like confronting a fire-eating dragon.
The fear of speaking in public, “glossophobia” affects at least 75% of the population.
A 2012 research study showed that participants feared “speaking before a group” more than “death.”
In an earlier article I wrote about stage fright or “performance anxiety” among famous individuals. Can Stage Fright Be Good For You?
The great ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ella Fitzgerald suffered from stage fright but forced themselves to go on with the show. Sometimes notable performers find other ways to continue their careers: the actor Daniel Day Lewis left the stage during the middle of a performance and never returned. He dealt with his stage fright by continuing his acting career solely in the movies. A fairly extreme solution for a famous actor!
Some performers prefer to call it shyness, not stage fright.
Carly Simon took off six years from live performance. But when asked about her decision, she declined to call it stage fright and defined it as “shyness.” Being center stage, exposed to criticism, may be the underlying reason for what we refer to stage fright.
So how can this be overcome by the average person who doesn’t necessarily have to perform in front of a large audience?
Changing one’s thinking about public speaking as “exposure” is a starting point. Giving a presentation, report or making a toast is not a performance. If you have prepared sufficiently and most importantly have rehearsed — out loud — in front of a coach or trusted friend/colleague, it’s not a performance. You’re presenting your research or experience to individuals who probably want to hear what you say.
The best way to slay the dragon of stage fright is to focus on your task, not whether you’re inherently shy or afraid of the audience’s disapproval. Planning, practice and professional coaching are the tools to make you successful — and success creates confidence!
Check back soon for more articles on public speaking, communications, speech pathology and executive function.