4, Oct, 2013

Turn Stage Fright into Fun

Okay, you’ve booked a radio spot⎯ an opportunity to talk about your book, your business, and whatever else is important to you. And you’re feeling jumpy. img0242_1You’ve got butterflies in your stomach, and they’re driving you crazy. Your mouth feels tense, or your knees feel weak, or you’ve got cotton mouth…sound familiar? If your answer is yes, read on. You can turn this completely around.

As a professional speaker and standup comic, I’ve experienced all of the above and some even more dramatic “fear” signals in the course of my work. And I’ve learned some sure fire ways to not only manage the anxiety symptoms otherwise known as “stage fright,” but to reinterpret them as excitement, anticipation, and a sign that events are unfolding as they should!

I’ve accumulated a list of strategies and tips on overcoming public speaking anxiety, that I learned the hard way, by trial and error, through tens of thousands of hours of performing in  front of live audiences. Here are a few steps and strategies that can help you to not only survive, but enjoy the experience:

Acknowledge the fear. If you try to tell yourself you’re not afraid, that creates a cycle of denial, and that’s counterproductive. Gently, calmly talk with yourself about your feelings. Once you acknowledge the fear you can move through it.

Normalize the feeling. Some people multiply the fear when they “awfulize” the experience, telling themselves all kinds of scary statements about how the fear is a sign that doing a radio show is not for them, or it’s against their nature, and they fold. Know that this fear is normal, and very common. Experts agree that public speaking anxiety is one of the most, if not the most common phobias. All the pros experience these symptoms, but the difference is that they go ahead and do it anyway.

Go ahead: move through the fear and into the fun. Now you are free to move on through to the fun, the thrill, and the self-empowerment that come from public speaking. One of my early breakthroughs in standup comedy happened when I realized that the symptoms listed in the first paragraph of this post, which I experienced, can be interpreted as excitement rather that fear. It’s like the feeling you get before diving off a high dive, or running a marathon. The feelings you’re experiencing come from the universal energy building up inside you, preparing you for a challenge and an exhilarating experience. Welcome the butterflies. Realize they’re there to help get you up to a higher energy level.

Any exchange of words and ideas is a relationship, so be a fun participant. This is especially true of public speaking. Think of your radio interview as a really relaxing and fun meeting with a good friend, favorite family member, or fun boyfriend. What are you bringing to the relationship? How can you make your audience, and your interviewer, feel more relaxed and have more fun? Prepare your mind for the meeting: if you’re an author, think about all the things you love about yourself,  your book, your radio audience, your interviewer, your readers, the positive reviews your book has earned already, and why you wrote your book in the first place. Rediscover your vision and passion. And remember, radio is a conversation. You’re talking with friends.

Use positive self-talk. When the butterflies come fluttering in, tell yourself, “I’m so excited. This will be so much fun!” Provide yourself with an inner cheerleading squad. Each time you anticipate the upcoming radio spot, or the thought of what’s ahead crosses your mind, smile both inwardly and outwardly and reassure yourself of how well it’s going to go.

Visualize positive outcome. Professional athletes and entertainers use this all the time, and it really works if you are consistent. Visualize yourself in the interview, being relaxed, brilliant and totally knocking it out of the park. Then visualize the results you want to get from the interview. Do this systematically, on a daily basis. It’s especially powerful when you turbo-charge your visualization with a strong positive emotion. Visualize in present moment only, that is, think of it as if you have already received the things you are visualizing.

Prepare. Preparation is essential and will instill you with confidence and poise. Rehearse the things you want to talk about, and if possible, prepare questions and a bio to send to your interviewer ahead of time, so you can have an inner script to go from. Refrain from rote memorization or you’ll risk sounding wooden. Instead, know your answers so well that you can vary the wording or pace so it’s conversational. Try stretching, doing yoga, praying or meditating before rehearsal and performance. Let your body lead the way, relaxing muscles and sending that message to your mind and emotions.

Live, Breathe and Feel Your Message. Don’t get all hung up on the words alone, but actually practice feeling the emotions behind your answers as you rehearse. Our words have power, but our emotions carry even more weight in this situation because they affect the timber of your voice when you are speaking. If you fill yourself up with positive emotion whenever you anticipate, rehearse, or in any other way prepare for the interview, you are programming yourself for a positive emotional response to the challenge. When you feel good, you sound good, and your radio audience will pick up your wavelength⎯and love you for it.

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