Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Stage fright and other ghouls

Have you ever found yourself asking: "How and why did I get myself into it in the first place?" about an hour before having to step out in front of a group of people? Public speaking is a tricky thing and the trick about it is to make it look easy, appealing even - which makes the pressure even higher, if you're one to feel it. But the hardest bit is stage fright. Or to put it in the words of FDR (inaugural speech, March 1933):

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

and Sir Francis Bacon (De Augmentis Scientiarum, Book II, Fortitudo (1623).):

Nothing is terrible except fear itself.

I don't think fear is necessarily something bad - if observed and learnt from it can be precious (not to mention it saved a lot of our ancestors from hungry bears and angry crowds). Sometimes there are things to be afraid of.

The point is for it not to stop us in growing and changing things for the better.

There is a potential to go on a downward spiral before having to give a presentation, but once you did get yourself into public speaking, there's no point in analyzing how, but (as always) focus on what you can control:
  1. Make sure you're comfortable and comfortably acquainted with the subject matter of your talk.
  2. Preparation, preparation, preparation - but be kind to your voice and tailor the preparation to yourself: some people need to go through all the details, some do the work in a very short time and without saying a word.
  3. Find three points in the audience to look at - you won't be able to look at everyone if there are a lot of people there. Kind faces help the situation. 
  4. Have some water available.
  5. Take your time before the event. Do whatever you feel is good for you. 
  6. Try to be aware of your body language.
  7. Breathe.
  8. Speak.
Everything in life is taking a chance: sometimes smaller, sometimes greater. No gain is certain only if no chance is taken. 

All my love, 

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