Overcoming Stage Frights: Train yourself to give a presentation in the way an actor trains for a drama

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You are in Cloud Nine!  Your boss comes up to you saying, “Congratulations!  Your project was a tremendous success.  Everyone has been talking about it. 

Then he dropped the bombshell:  “Now, the CEO wants to hear from the horses’ mouth how you did it?  We have fixed a date for you to make a presentation in two days’ time.  The rest of the company directors will be sitting in too.”

You freeze! 

Research has shown that Public Speaking is the Number One fear for many people.  Interestingly, death comes second.  To quote what comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, “If that’s the case, people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy!”

But why is that so?

Among the reasons commonly cited are:

  • Fear of not getting the attention when speaking
  • Stage fright
  • Shy
  • A lack of confidence
  • Anxiety of not doing it (public speaking well)
  • Not enough preparation
  • Insufficient topic mastery
  • Fear of being criticised
  • Speechless!
  • Poor command of the language

Are you going to let this fear of speaking up in public deny you that opportunity to be visible and lose the chance of climbing up the corporate ladder?

Acting and emceeing are some of the activities which are part of public speaking.  And when one has to perform or emcee to a group of 1000, will there be stage frights?

Absolutely! It is human nature to experience stage frights, especially when one has to speak in front of a crowd.

Nevertheless, because fear or stage fright is manageable, the experience of public speaking can be made pleasant, at least.  Undergoing theatre and drama training is one good way to acquire the skills in managing stage frights.  

In drama training, you are put in situations that encourage you to feel non-inhibited – which will automatically make you feel less fearful.  The trainings may be tough but it does pay off by giving you necessary techniques which you could use in your public speaking.

Giving a presentation is like putting on a performance.  Here are three tips to overcome stage frights, especially for those who will be speaking for the first time:

1) Warm Up – It is always good to “start the engine”.   By warming up, you are preparing your body and mind for the presentation.

Just do simple head rotations, stretch your arms, wriggle your fingers and toes, and take some deep breathing.  Theatre games are very useful activities to keep the body warmed-up before a presentation.

2) “Overprepare” – Do not just stick to the content that you have already prepared.  Think of other possible questions audience will ask, or have some extra stories or jokes up our sleeves in case you go under-schedule.  Do ample rehearsals on the speech.  Get someone’s help to observe if you are using the correct body language.

Learn improvisational skills as well.  These are useful skills for presenters.  Actors learn it as part of their actors training.  Should things go wrong on stage, you can think on your feet for solutions or make things go smooth as possible that audience does not notice any hitches.

3) Memorise the Introduction and Conclusion – Sometimes it is a challenge to memorise scripts.  So, do not memorise. How do actors or emcees appear confident speaking on stage?  They use keywords to help them deliver their lines - as long as the messages are the same. 

Humans have longer lasting first and last impressions of whom they meet with or see.  Why not use that to an advantage?  Give the audience an impactful opening and memorable closing – that will make your presentation a lasting one in their minds.

Familiarise yourself with the techniques mentioned above and you will feel more confident about public speaking. The next step is to give it a go.

by Hazriq Idrus, The Speaking Factory Pte Ltd