Panic or stage fright is a common fear that occurs in millions of people. It is a specific phobia, which is limited to the fear of speaking in front of a particular audience.
You have to do a presentation in a few days or even months and you are already nervous. You think about the moment you have to expose and you are already anxious.
However, the fear of public speaking can be overcome, I actually have. I’ll tell you how I did it and other techniques you can use to start improving slowly. If you practice, in a short time you can see huge differences.
Moreover, accept it as something normal (although to improve). According to statistics up to 75% of people are afraid to speak in public. Statistically more than the fear of dying!
An American actor and comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, used to joke that at a funeral, most people would rather rest in the coffin than say a few words or praise…
Before I start with the tips and techniques I will explain something more about this type of fear, I think it will do you good to overcome it. Also, I will tell you my experience so you can see that you too can face it and overcome it.
Symptoms of Scenic Panic
These symptoms I know from pure experience and maybe they sound:
Cognitive level: fear of ridicule, fear of rejection , fear of failure , expectations of failure, giving too much importance to mistakes, confusion of ideas, loss of memory, self-demand, stress , nausea or feelings of panic.
Physiological level: intense anxiety before communicating with an audience. Also just think about it or visualize it. Dry mouth, headache, cold hands, excessive sweating, rapid breathing, facial flushing, chills, and digestive tract discomfort.
Behavioral level: Avoid events in which you have to be the center of attention, postpone actions.
According to my experience and from what I have read, with what I will explain you will greatly reduce the symptoms, however almost never disappear completely.
It is a defensive and normal response of your body. A certain level of anxiety is going to be there, it is even positive because it helps you to be more active. Of course if the level of anxiety is too high will not allow you to do well.
The following are some of the most common situations in which you feel stage fright. Even with just thinking about them you can feel some degree of anxiety:
- Presentation of projects in the work.
- Presentation of works in the institute or university.
- Presentation in exams or competitions.
- Act before TV cameras, radio …
- Classes as teacher or expert.
- Interpretation of musical pieces.
- Speeches at weddings or other events.
- Advertisements to the public. For example, announcements from pilots to passengers.
Causes and Statistics of Scenic Fear
Although some authors associate scenic panic with social phobia , it is not equivalent.
You can be afraid to speak in public and develop well in social situations, like to relate to people and have many friends.
Scenic fear is something specific, a specific phobia that is limited to speaking in public, on stage, even to act without speaking.
Therefore, this is important: Scenic fear is also common among people who have to act before an audience even if they do not utter a word, musicians, dancers, athletes, etc.
In fact, some surveys conducted in developed countries with musicians reveal prevalence figures between 24% and 70% and cite severe cases, causing the abandonment of the race.
In addition, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, these statistics are given in the population:
- 74% of people are afraid to speak in public.
- 75% of women are afraid to speak in public.
- 73% of men are afraid of speaking in public.
- 5.3 million Americans have a social phobia.
- 3.2 million Americans are afraid of crowded or public places.
So, if it occurs in such a high percentage of the population, it seems that this fear is innate.
I have even seen very extroverted people get very nervous because they have to exhibit in public.
According to my experience, stage fright is innate, although depending on personal traits (genetics) it occurs to a greater or lesser degree.
- To a lesser extent, there is low anxiety that can even help you to become more active. This anxiety usually decreases with practice.
- In the higher grade there is a high anxiety leading to avoidance and almost to immobilization.
It occurs to a greater degree in people who:
- They have had small stressful or traumatic experiences when exposed to an audience.
- Genetically they are more likely to have anxiety disorders, such as social phobia.
- Bad performances.
In any case, if you suffer the “higher degree” you can overcome this problem.
In the case of those who have learned to be afraid, you can unlearn it. And in the case that you are genetically susceptible, you can develop skills that will change your symptoms.
My Experience with Scenic Panic
In the colleges and institutes where I studied I had to speak in public very little, you can count on the fingers of one hand.
Later, in college, I had to do something else, but rarely. In the first 4 years studying the race, when I exposed in public I fulfilled many of the symptoms that I explained before.
For me, this changed in my 5th year of college, when I worked for the university as a pollster.
He had to go through classes of 30-60 students, explain in public how they had to do surveys and solve doubts. This I had to do about 5-10 times a day for 2 months.
The first day of that work was very anxious, although with practice and a few days began to decline. A month, I felt calm, perhaps with a small anxiety level, although I developed very well.
With so much practice, I can say that at that time I reached a very high point for me. In addition, that ability moved to speak in courses, subjects or events.
Then I understood this: to overcome a fear you have only to act. You have to face it, pressure you to act and, if you do, over time you will overcome it and even control it.
Now, every time I go to a course, event or anything, I force myself to speak in public or volunteer.
Since I do not speak in public now as much as I did in my extrabass, I feel more anxiety. However, the important thing is that I do not avoid situations, I am aware of my ability and I usually act well or at least communicate what I should.
The important thing is not to be afraid, there will always be fears. The important thing is to face him. When you do, you realize that it was not so much.
So these are three important lessons I’ve learned:
- The more you practice and the more you expose yourself to public speaking, the less anxiety you will have and the more ability you develop.
- The less you practice, the more anxiety you have when you have to talk and the less ability you have.
- There is always some level of anxiety, although it is totally controllable and can even help you to be more active.
Techniques and tips for overcoming stage fright
1-Speak first in front of few people
I had to do it “to the beast”; I started talking in front of 30-60 people. However, this I do not recommend because it increases the possibility that you avoid that situation. In addition, you will feel a lot more anxiety and other symptoms.
Therefore, as I explain in this article on how to overcome fear , expose first to simple situations, such as talking in front of 5 people, that do not cause you too much anxiety.
When you control these situations, you begin to level up with more complicated situations; 20 people, 40 people…
I probably would not have done it if it had not been a job. If I did not, they would not pay me, so I had to do it, yes or no. If you do not take it seriously and do not force yourself, you probably will not.
Although in reality if you will have to do; In your presentation, examination or presentation.
Make yourself public speaking before you have to do that exposure. That way you will acquire the skill and lose the fear.
Singers rehearse before singing, musicians alike. Do the same if you want to control the real and important situation.
3-The importance of preparation
The day before the presentation prepares everything calmly. Make sure you do not forget anything important (documents, pen drive, files …)
If you practice hours before or the day before, you will be more mentally and physically tired. You do not need to do it the day before if you already know what you are going to present.
In this sense, knowing well what you are going to talk about and the structure of what you are going to say will help you a lot.
Practice therefore for 30 minutes-1 hour a few weeks before your presentation. The time will depend on the importance of the presentation and its duration.
Mark Twain said: It usually takes three weeks to prepare an impromptu speech.
Steve Jobs himself spent hours preparing his presentations.
4-Controlling the nerves
As I have explained, if you practice at first in simple situations, you will not have so much anxiety .
However, you may have to speak in public suddenly. Then:
- Deep breathing will help you relax (diaphragmatic breathing).
- Do not try to deny nervousness or tell yourself, “I’m not nervous,” “I will not be nervous.”
- Accept your nervousness and act from it. This is especially important. Do not try to deny your state or be dissatisfied with it, accept it.
- Use relaxation techniques.
5-On stage or presentation
According to my experience and other information I have read, here are the tips I can give you:
- If you make mistakes, accept them as normal and continue.
- Do not ask for forgiveness, do not make gestures or say alas! If you make a mistake, go ahead. The errors are normal.
- If you suffer a memory lock, continue with the next point in the structure of your presentation. Surely you remember again and you can go back.
- Look at the audience as your friend.
- Prepare everything you need for the presentation in time. Do not be late.
- On many occasions people do not perceive that they are somewhat nervous … until you say that you are nervous.
6-After the performance
First, and if it’s all right, thank the audience. Do not censor applause or thanks because you can show lack of self-esteem.
Second, when you are alone, think about your mistakes and how to improve them. Also, if it was an achievement, give yourself a prize to reinforce the fact that you dared to do it.
7-Do not abandon the practice
Obviously you will have times in which you will have to present more and others in which you are several months without doing it.
However, try to practice when you can so as not to lose the skill and to be prepared when you have to resubmit or if you have an unexpected presentation.