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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Overcoming Stage Fright


“Do you still get nervous?” As a speaker, that’s the most commonly asked question I get. The answer is both yes and no. Time and experience has helped me to manage my nerves, but I wouldn’t say they’re completely gone. I get more nervous in certain settings, like when people I know, love and respect are in the audience. It may be weird, but I’m more comfortable in front of 500 strangers than 20 of my friends!

It’s completely normal to get nervous before you speak, but nobody wants to melt down completely in front of a group. Here are some tips for managing and channeling fear.

#1–Be prepared with a great message. The greatest surge of confidence comes when you know you’ve written a stronge message that will serve the needs of your audience. Also, when you’ve taken time to practice that message out loud–making sure you’re staying within your given time and working out the kinks– you’ll feel calmer and more comfortable as you start.

I’ve started crafting and memorizing my first sentence. Just like writers need a great sentence as a “hook” for their readers, speakers need a beginning sentence with some “pow!” to get their listeners to sit up and begin to take notice. Knowing what my first words will be helps me to channel all the nervousness into a contagious energy.

#2–Square breathing. This physical exercise is one I use almost every time I speak. When I start getting nervous, I start to hyperventilate, so I do these steps called square breathing:

  • While counting to 4, inhale slowly through your nose.
  • Hold the breath for 4 slow counts.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth while counting to 4.
  • Hold the breath for 4 slow counts.
  • Repeat 2-3 times.

I think this works for several reasons.  It makes me slow my breathing down which keeps me from hyperventilating.  It floods my body with oxygen which helps clear and sharpen my mind.  It also gives my brain something to do (counting) besides thinking about how nervous I am!

#3–Boss around your motives. No matter how selfless you are, it’s hard to get past wanting to impress people in your audience. I’ve found that wanting to impress is a motive that causes my nerves to soar. Instead, God has taught me to pray to forget about myself entirely. I pray that I’ll love God first and that He’ll give me a great love for the people in my audience. Once those motives and priorities are in place, my nerves calm.

Excessive nervousness when you speak reflects an excessive focus on self.

PSALM 34-4

How do you manage your nerves? I’d love to hear more tips!

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