Presenting in front of an audience is often a bit of a challenge. Most presenters are more or less nervous when they stand in front of an auditorium. Many people even experience real stage fright. But what helps against it? In addition to aids such as autogenic training or tranquilizers, there is an unspectacular but effective trick to alleviate the fear of performing in front of an audience: Professional preparation.
Stage fright can affect anyone who performs in public. The fear of showing yourself in front of an audience is often not so easy to get a grip on. There are musicians and actors who, as true professionals, have been performing in public for decades and suffer from stage fright again and again. What happens if the artist forgets the lyrics or plays an audibly wrong note? Then nervousness can quickly escalate into panic. Once you have panicked, it is very difficult to get a grip on the situation again. For presenters, mishaps during a presentation are the biggest stressor. The audience often doesn’t even notice minor mishaps. Major mishaps can ruin the entire presentation.
Is stage fright part of it?
Not all people are the same. There are speakers who have a lot of experience and self-confidence and hardly feel nervous when you speak in front of large groups. Then there are presenters who know no fear at all of smaller groups, but get antsy around large halls. I have read of former CSU chairman Edmund Stoiber that he routinely gave his speeches in large beer tents. But as soon as a television camera was running, he became nervous. A small group of people may indeed be completely free of nervousness when they have to perform something in front of an audience. The vast majority of all people who “expose” themselves to an audience are familiar with feelings ranging from mild nervousness, to intense inner turmoil, to severe stress and anxiety attacks.
Basically, we all can’t help it if we get stage fright. It is an automatic reaction that is deeply embedded in our genes. Our ancestors had to react quickly when hunting wild animals or fleeing from warlike conspecifics. The body releases adrenaline and prepares the organism for fight or flight. Of course, today we are no longer in mortal danger when we want to present something in front of a larger group of people. Stage fright is associated with an expectation that the quality of our performance will be judged by the audience.
Stage fright can be your ally
Quite clearly, severe stage fright, where you can hardly keep on your feet, is of no use to you. In such a case, you should consider visiting an experienced therapist who can help you professionally manage your anxiety. However, a slight tension will bring you some advantages. Stage fright sharpens the senses. You become more focused, your senses are all at peak performance, and you can concentrate completely on your presentation. You are not distracted by trivialities, but are fully engaged in your task with your consciousness.
What little trick softens your stage fright?
As we have just established, a slightly elevated adrenaline level is quite helpful in delivering a presentation with high concentration. But often the fear of failing in front of an audience is unpleasantly high. In addition to various breathing and relaxation exercises, there is a mundane but quite effective way to lower stress levels before a presentation. And that is the optimal preparation. After all, we’ve already established that mishaps can ruin the entire presentation.
By eliminating all sources of error as much as possible, you can also step in front of your audience more calmly. This already starts with the planning. Try to prevent time pressure by starting preparations early. Under time pressure, mistakes creep in quickly. The slide sets have a large potential for error. Content errors, wrong design, the list of error sources is long. You can have a professional PowerPoint presentation created if you know a good presentation agency. If you want to create the slides yourself, an agency can at least improve the individual slides significantly.
However, the biggest “source of error” is often the presenter himself. Rehearse your presentation by delivering it aloud several times until everything sinks in. Again, a professional presentation agency can help you achieve significant improvements in your performance in a short period of time. Few hours of work with a presentation expert will tremendously advance your public speaking skills. The more conscientiously you prepare, the more confident and calm you will appear before your auditorium.
For more tips and tricks on presenting, sign up for our newsletter.