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Stage fright or Not... Here I come!

By J.A. Gamache

3rd place winner in the 2001
Toastmasters International
World Championship of Public Speaking
 

 Do you suffer from stage fright? 

  • When you are in front of an audience, does it feel like your heart is trying to leap out of your chest? 

  • Is your mouth as dry as the desert and do your knees feel like jello?
  • Do your ears turn red and do you become suddenly brain dead? 
  • Are you normal?

Yes, yes and yes! Of all phobias known to man, it is proven that the champion of them all is the fear of speaking in public. Let me give you three beliefs that have successfully diminished my fear of public speaking.

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1- I have the right to be wrong and to make mistakes

I'm not going to lose a client because I skipped a word during a presentation or lose my job because I showed the wrong slides to the boss. It seems obvious that we should give ourselves the right to be wrong and to make mistakes; still, it may take a while before you actually do give yourself that right. So many of us have been raised to believe that mistakes are very wrong, and yet they are the best teachers. By giving yourself that right, you are giving yourself the right to learn, to be human, natural and credible. As a plus, you will develop charisma as you go along.
2- Silence is golden! or I have the right to breathe
Stress may sometimes come from thinking that you have to fill up ALL of your time talking. Please! Give yourself a chance and let your audience breathe as well. Pauses are wonderful in giving rhythm to your speech and they make it easier for your audience to assimilate an idea and/or emotion you have just proposed. Did you know that your audience breathes at the same rhythm as you do? If you keep talking non-stop, you will make your audience feel uncomfortable and tired; and before you know it, you've lost them. 
3- I have the right to be serious
Or, I don't have to make them laugh all the time. Unless you are a stand-up comic, there is no need for you to write a speech with a joke in each line. You can still be interesting without having to make them laugh every 2 minutes. Even great comic artists like Charlie Chaplin and Mister Bean have tragic scenes interspersed with comic scenes.

Ever since I have given myself these three rights-the right to make mistakes, the right to breathe and the right to be serious-my fear of public speaking has become tolerable. Today I take pleasure in public speaking despite stage fright because I know how to manage it.

It is actually preferable to have stage fright. It reminds us that we must respect our audience and be careful about what we say, and that we have a huge responsibility when we speak: to be interesting.

 

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