Stage fright is one of the worst nightmares that all introverts would have to face! I can easily say that it is one of the most irrational yet common fears which every newbie will encounter. It is irrational because if you goof up during performance in front of your audience, it’s not like that the audience are armed with weapons and they are going out to chuck out grenade or try to kill you! The worst case scenario will be that the audience might chuck rotten tomatoes at you that too if you say something stupid and insensitive during speech or debate.(like saying using racial slurs is cool or by making poor jokes on recent hurricane or natural disasters.) Then if we all fit into the category of decent folks why do we still feel anxiety, heavy breathing and fast heartbeats before the beginning of the performance? You would be giving either speech or might be performing a song or a dance, yet why do we feel butterflies in our stomach before our debut? The answer is quiet simple because we think if something goes wrong, you might feel like a village idiot as the audience might laugh at your mistakes. But the worst thing we fear is that how our classmates will treat us after such embarrassing performance and what stupid nick name (which might stick to you rest of your life) might your classmates come up with exclusively for you. For most of the parents, they might think it is a silly excuse for not participating in debate or speech but only the kids really know the first hand experience they face in school. So many of us still want to get rid of fears and shine like a bright star. I will focus on how I overcame my stage fright and how I managed to give speech smoothly without any nervous breakdown!
- Find a reason for why you must give speech and how it benefits you.
I was introvert by nature, which means that I particularly do not fall into the category of most of my classmates who used to make a lot of noise by banging the benches, shouting profanities at each other, making fun of teacher behind and by forming a big gang during free hours. Put it in simple words, I am not a member of their pack, which of course due to which I used to attract a lot of hostility from them. Since I am a quiet guy, who does not enjoy what they do, they used to call me sissy or coward. They used to make fun of me whenever they can. Since I do not take part in any other activities, they used to call me a rote learning machine and used to mock me. They used to think that I am not ‘smart’ and I will not be able to excel in extra-curricular activities. So I decided to give speech just to prove how wrong they can be! So during 8th grade I decided to take part in elocution competition. I did not have any prior experience of even standing in front of audience, let alone giving about the speech. Still I decided to give it, so that I could show those idiots what I am capable of! When I saw on my facebook wall that one of my friend had awarded me with the ‘Best Idiot Award’ in my wall, I had enough and took part.
- Take the road less travelled by!
We know that giving out speech is more ‘formal’ with ‘positive’ and ‘balanced’ view of a topic. One of my topic was, “Does social media have more pros than cons”, then I realized maybe I could use the ‘idiot award’ example to both make my speech more unique and at the same time have my sweet revenge my possible giving out live example which might terrify my class mate who conferred me the ‘title’. This will be by unique selling point of speech. And always feel free to experiment on how the speech should be delivered and it should stand out from the rest of the competitors. In this case, I used my real life example to tickle audience so that I could attract their attention! I have chosen an unorthodox method of presenting speech. Remember that the audience might get tired by listening to many participants and by the time your turn comes up, half of them might be on the verge on sleep! Always start the speech by cracking a joke, and you could also give out your real life example. There are two benefits, not only the audience might listen to you carefully, but by making the atmosphere light hearted they will more likely to take your stutter or any silly mistakes positively! Or you could try out any style of you like which should stand out from the rest of your competitors. And yes during my first speech, my legs indeed wobbled (but the podium covered it thankfully!) and I was able to give speech nicely.
Once you prepare your draft, understand the content carefully and don’t memorise it. The more you memorise, the more you likely to forget! Divide your speech into many events and just memorize the sequence of events! It should not be necessarily word to word. Once you know the gist, you could present it to the audience just like a normal conversation! And remember to practise in front of mirror, and always observe your vocal pitch as well as your speed of your voice.
- Get set and go!
Before giving out speech, I took out deep breadths, observed how the previous students gave their speech. I observed how they walked confidently into stage, their walking style, their composure along with how they started salutations. I noticed that most of the participants who managed to give good speeches did not carry out notes to read. They delivered speech as if they are having a normal conversation. When it was my turn, I got up, took shortest route to podium, walked slowly and carefully and I did not carried any notes! I always have problem of looking into people’s eyes and communicating. So I imagined all my audience as the vegetables in the garden! This really helped me a lot, and I was able to deliver the speech completely with few breakdowns! By using this imagination, this will relax you and give confidence to deliver your speech. Or other way is to make eye contact with your friends or teachers you trust. By making such eye contact, they will most likely give you a nod of encouragement which will make you feel more confident. In the end I did managed to put my friend in tight spot by saying, “ Facebook also have few cons, like for example last week I got the best idiot award from my classmate…” with my eyes focusing on the culprit at that moment and the some of the audience members laughed, which made my day! So even if I didn’t win any award, I got empowered as I know that I could deliver speech without any breakdowns!
- Keep on taking part and never lose touch!
I knew that getting rid of stage fright completely cannot be achieved by just giving one speech. So I started taking part in elocution every year, and during my 12th grade I took part in student council so that I could hone my communication skills. And I got top post in the council (in the first go!) which gave me the opportunity for more public speaking events and slowly I lost fear and now I can give speech without any preparation!
So dedication along with determination can indeed conquer your own setbacks!