Monday, February 28, 2011

The Terror of Talk: Stage Fright

Everybody gets it. Everybody can get over it.
Third-degree stage fright manifests itself as a revved-up heart beat, elevated blood pressure, a flushed face, and trembling hands. When you have stage fright, you’re experiencing a reaction shared by your cave-dwelling ancestors. Experts call it the flight-or-fight reaction. When a cave dweller saw a saber-toothed tiger, adrenaline pumped into his blood stream and his body prepared itself to scamper up a tree or, if necessary, to do battle.
Most people have the same kind of reaction the first time they face an audience. Here are some physical and mental tricks you can use to control this reaction:
  • Keep in mind that the audience is not a tiger. Audience members are disposed to like you. They want to relax almost as much as you do. They want you to succeed because that means they will be entertained. In other words, the audience is on your side.
  • Because your stage fright reaction is a right-brain function—instinctive and emotional—counter it with left-brain activity. Count or work a numbers problem in your head. Think about how your talk is organized and how you’ve marshaled the various points.
  • Breathe. Fitness guru Pat Croce recommends inhaling deeply through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
  • Smile. Just the act of smiling causes chemical changes in the body that can help you relax and feel more confident.

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