Public Speaking: Beating Those Nervous Butterflies – Part II
There are many people in the world today who have become almost completely anti-social and what I like to term electro-hermetic. They have found the substitute for human contact since a very early age in the massively influential and wholly vacuous media of our age. Although working couples today don't think twice about leaving their kids with a babysitter whose first name is Wii and surname is Nickelodeon, as this generation grows to adulthood they profoundly lack the slightest capacity to relate to other human beings one on one, let alone when having to address an auditorium filled with blank faces all staring at them.
You are definitely not alone as most people simply can't avoid being nervous when having to face an extremely exposing situation such as this where you can't run and you can't hide.
From my elementary school days I remember a boy in my class being told to memorize an extremely long poem and present it in front of everyone in the entire school at an assembly. He was already a very quiet, shy and retiring boy, a real wallflower, and he was so overtaken by nerves and fear when reciting this enormous poem that it seemed that he almost went into severe shock. He never did finish the poem and just ran off the stage!
Here are some tips to help prevent anything along these lines ever happening to you:
Before the day of the performance:
- Never ever ever tell yourself that you will screw it all up and destroy the presentation, your reputation, and the rest of your life. This is the one absolute worst thing you can say to yourself before going out in front of a crowd. Always think positive and encouraging thoughts, and repeat to yourself like a mantra that you can and will pull this off very successfully.
- Always rehearse, rehearse and rehearse some more. It is imperative that you understand your speech well. Make sure that your entire dialogue is fully written well in advance, and that you have taken the opportunity to read the entire script out loud as many times as you can. In drama, you need to ensure that you know all of your lines and all of your cues inside out and backwards. If you have any props that you need to use during the presentation make sure that you rehearse with them!
- Practice your speech on an initmate and friendly audience of family, friends or office colleagues. Even if you can manage to practice your speech in front of just one single, solitary other person it can really make a huge difference.
- Try to rehearse your speech in the venue where you are actually going to be performing. If rehearsing in the venue is not possible, and many times it isn't, try to find somewhere that is somewhat similar. There is little point practicing in your bathroom when you will be addressing a convention hall with 10,000 people. No convention hall available? How about a hockey arena, a fairground building or even an empty shopping center on Sunday morning?
- If you make a horrible mistake that would otherwise be the end of the presentation while rehearsing, just keep right on going. If you are able to do this it will build your confidence should something unexpected happen during the real presentation and you may be able to successfully get through it.
On the day of the performance:
- Keep a level head. Do not panic for any reason whatsoever. Make sure that you don't touch any alcohol or ingest any medications that are not strictly necessary for at least 24 hours before the presentation.
- Whatever you do, don't be late! Give yourself more than enough time to get where you have to go. Always allow for the worst possible case scenario of late planes, huge traffic jams, and double that amount of time. If you rush around you will most certainly end up in a panic, and those butterflies to turn into rabid gargoyles eating out your intestines!
- In order to keep from worrying yourself half to death, stick around with a bunch of people. Stay social, chat about this, that, or the other thing... anything but your upcoming speech. It will help to keep you from over-focusing on your fears.
- If you "go up" or "freeze" make sure that you have something to fall back on quickly. Maybe a little gratuitous info that "the character" in the drama might share about themselves, or if you're giving a speech, a memorized joke or little story that can be used to distract the audience from realizing that you are experiencing cranial flatulence.
- Most of all, remember that this is (or should be) an enjoyable experience, so relax, be confident, and go out there to make a great impression and leave many positive lasting memories, amidst your audience as well as in your own mind.
Practice makes perfect and public speaking is certainly no exception to that old rule. Every time you go out there it will get easier and easier, until the butterflies are the size of atoms! Then you will be a truly confident and experienced public speaker!