How to get your stage fright under control!

The best remedy for stage fright: good preparation

Almost all people who have to stand in front of an audience suffer from stage fright. Why is that? Are there any remedies for it? In addition to various relaxation techniques, there is a mundane but effective way to get your anxiety under control: Do it like the pros and prepare for your presentation as well as possible!

Virtually everyone who lectures or presents is familiar with stage fright. It appears in all gradations and shades. Even show stars who are used to performing in front of large audiences are affected. Ultimately, this reaction is also completely normal. Whoever steps in front of an audience makes himself vulnerable, can make mistakes or even fail properly. Such prospects leave no one cold. A little bit of stage fright can have positive aspects, because it makes you concentrate fully.

In a light dose, stress hormones make us alert and focused. But many people suffer from downright panic attacks, even mortal fears, when they have to give a presentation. Where does this fear come from? There are various theories about this. Ultimately, it is about a “confrontation” with the audience. Of course, this does not expose you to any real danger, but apparently an ancient reaction pattern is triggered in us that had its justification, but is extremely disturbing during a slide lecture. Often the trail leads back to early childhood experiences. Perhaps old memories of embarrassing situations from school days will be evoked. Unnoticed, an old pain is revived, for example, when you stood at the front of the blackboard and didn’t know the answer or said something wrong. The trauma from the teacher’s reprimand and the laughter of your classmates can burrow deep into your subconscious and erupt again when you are asked to say something in front of an audience today.

But our psyche may be able to dig deeper and evoke collective experiences stored in our genes. The history of mankind has often been associated with the struggle for survival. A single person who suddenly found himself facing a strange group had to be on his guard and expect anything.

I have read that there is a condition that is said to have great similarities to stage fright: so-called “gun fever.” It describes symptoms soldiers can get before an upcoming battle: from nervousness to cramps, heart palpitations, nausea, tremors and panic. Amazing, apparently our subconscious mind thinks we are going into a fight when we “face” a group of spectators.

While experienced speakers can still keep themselves in check even during large “slide battles,” there are also people who go into panic mode even when they are asked to present in front of a small circle of nice colleagues. And there are people who have to present regularly and regularly get into this anxiety situation. No sooner has a presentation been held than the stomach clenches again because the next presentation date is already set. With such life situations, of course, at some point it goes to the health.

But what is the best way to deal with stage fright?

There are a wide variety of ways to address presentation anxiety. One option would be to try to take medication for it. I am not a doctor, but I think this method is quite risky. Side effects and dependencies cannot be ruled out, and are even probable with some agents. Pharma and military have been researching in this field for decades and have various agents in use. The successes are highly controversial. But if over-the-counter remedies like valerian help you become a little calmer, that’s not a bad thing, of course.

Tip 1: Relax with music or a warm glass of water

Before you resort to pharmaceutical remedies, you can try something simpler. Try to become calm before the presentation by listening to relaxing music through your MP3 player. A glass of warm water soothes the stomach and has a positive effect on the nervous system. In stressful situations, the body releases the stress hormone adrenaline. It is designed to help people cope with an acute threat, either by attack or by flight. Both are very inappropriate for a presentation, and therefore it is quite unpleasant to be flooded with adrenaline when you should be calm and confident.

Tip 2: Relax through movement

So, since adrenaline is supposed to help the body move (attack, escape), you can also reduce the stress hormone with exercise. Move around, walk across the parking lot again before the presentation, take the stairs to the next floor, if need be you can hop on the spot for a minute. Some exercise before the presentation will make you calmer.

Tip 3: Relax through various techniques

Another option would be to learn a stress reduction technique. There are a lot of tools for this, which have also helped many people. Whether it’s breathing exercises, autogenic training, meridian tapping techniques, hypnotherapy, or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) techniques, there are many methods you can try.

Tip 4: Relaxation through precise presentation preparation

The next option I would like to present to you is relatively easy to do, effective and costs nothing at all except time: prepare for your presentation as carefully as you can. At first, this sounds completely banal. Of course, you should prepare yourself. But in very many cases, lectures and presentations are inadequately prepared. It starts with faulty slides where spelling, transitions, and order were not checked. It continues with the content that should be explained for each slide. Either the speaker believes to be able to lecture extemporaneously on the basis of a few noted keywords, or he reads a longer text off the page. This looks unprofessional and very often goes wrong. The last point is the insufficient testing of technical equipment. If you have to frantically fiddle with the equipment before you start, it doesn’t make you look confident, and it makes you feel insecure yourself.

When you master your presentation in your sleep, you become calmer and more confident.

Start preparing for your presentation right after you find out the date. Make a schedule in which you set binding time slots for finding materials, creating slides, and practicing the presentation. If possible, avoid time constraints and plan generously so that unforeseen incidents like a cold don’t get you into trouble.

Be clear: How long do you want the talk to be? How many slides can/must be shown during this time? It is best to create a folder where you can gather and file material in the coming days. Take enough time for each slide so that the form and content are absolutely coherent and convincing. Think about what you want to say on each slide and write it down. When everything is ready, then start rehearsing the presentation. It is NOT enough to briefly go through the process in your mind. Give the talk out loud, either alone in front of your family or friends, until it REALLY sinks in. Pay attention to every detail, choice of words, tone of voice and posture. Only when you feel truly confident with your presentation will it also have a positive effect on your stress level and performance during the presentation. Carefully check your technical equipment the day before. If you have to rely on the organizer’s technology, make sure that the house technicians connect everything properly. Even if you don’t quite reach the 100% in front of an audience that you rehearsed in your “dry runs” in front of friends, you will most likely achieve a convincing result and have your stage fright much better under control. Of course, you don’t always get the time to prepare thoroughly. You may have to give a presentation within a few days. If you don’t have enough time, memorize at least the first few sentences of your presentation. This will give you more confidence, and most of the time nervousness will subside after a successful start.

A real turbo for your confidence and performance are presentation workshops like our “
Presentation Rocket Day
“, which we organize in 2016 for all interested parties. Here you will learn from our top coaches the tricks of the pros to master the professional performance in front of an audience and really wow your audience.

Presentation trainingDipl.-Wirtsch.-Informatiker Matthias Garten is the expert for multimedia presentations. He is an entrepreneur, speaker (TOP 100 Speaker), trainer (TOP 100 Excellence Trainer), multiple book author, presentation coach (presentation training), member of the GSA and Club 55, organizer of the Presentation Conference, Presentation Bootcamp and Presentation Rocket Day. In addition to PowerPoint and presentation training, he inspires and advises companies to present themselves even more effectively and thus stand out from competitors. He is the business owner of the presentation and PowerPoint agency smavicon Best Business Presentations and with his team has created over 15,000 presentations for over 150 industries since 1993.