How to Manage Stage-Fright while Speaking Before An Audience

Image by kibsri

The first time I spoke before an audience I was in a little makeshift cafe at a Christian campground. I stood before the students who comprised the Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship in my area. I was, perhaps twenty years old. My motivation was to show the world, and everyone there, that I was good at playing the guitar and putting poetry to music. It was, of course, terrifying. There might have been sixty people there. They were all talking, most were not paying much attention to me, which on one hand was irritating and on the other it prevented me from running off screaming into the night.

My hands were sweaty, my mouth was dry, my voice wavered, my hands shook, but I was motivated. I was motivated by the desire to be looked up to, thought well of, and to receive affirmation. I received non of those things, of course, but it did one very important thing for me: it showed me that I could do it. No matter how badly or how well I performed, I survived. It began a trend in my life that I believe God used, not only to teach me, but to minister to others.

Now that I am more experienced, I can tell you some of the things I have learned:
  • Everyone gets stage-fright. Even the ones who say they don't and the ones who look composed are afflicted with it. It tends to get better and less distressing with experience, but, it probably will not go away completely.
  • There are ways to keep from being crippled by stage-fright. Mind games help. Such as: the old idea to imagine your audience sitting in their underwear or if someone is on stage with you, you can imagine that the audience is really looking at the other person. 
  • Be prepared in the extreme. Make an outline (or list) of points you want to address and the tasks you are to complete, such as:
    • Do you have to adhere to a prescribed agenda?
    • Will you introduce another speaker?
    • Will you interact with others who will carry out your directions?
    • Make a list, in chronological order, to which to adhere.
    • As you begin each one, check off the tasks you need to complete so that you don't forget where you are in the agenda or get the tasks out of order.
  • Another way to manage stage-fright is to practice, practice, practice. If you know what you are going to say and are familiar with the list of tasks and points, your level of anxiety will be much lower. When I was to present a mini-seminar on professionalism and customer service, I practiced my outline over and over for two weeks. Doing this helped me remember what I was going to speak about and it helped me see where my subject was weak.
  • Believe in yourself and believe in your message. It's not just cliché. You can change your self-image through self-talk. Also, the more you practice your presentation, the more you will generate self-confidence. 
Next week we'll explore the power the audience gives you just by attending your event.

 Have you ever spoken before an audience? What was it like the first time? How long have you been doing it? Please, comment and share your experiences.




That for Which I Am Grateful

Courtesy of Nicholas Tarling. freedigitalphotos.net
We all benefit from gratitude. Sometimes we forget to think about what we are thankful for. The world and all of its noises, stresses, cares, and distractions often get in the way. Often, we have to be reminded about the blessings that daily have been loaded upon us. That's when it is good to give thanks.

While I was drafting this list, I was reminded of so many other things I am grateful for that I did not list. They aren't on the list only because they would make the list so long that it wouldn't be feasible for a blog post, but for a book! So here is my small sampling:
  • people who love me and accept me and my flaws
  • for running hot water
  • a God who keeps working with me and has never given up
  • my husband of 42 years, who is still enamored with me, and tells me so
  • the fact that I can still get out of bed in the morning
  • that I can actually walk a half mile in one whack! (there was a time that I thought I wouldn’t be able to again)
  • that our children love us
  • all of the help I have received with my writing, my art, and my music
  • the friendship of others, freely given
I could go on, of course, who couldn't?


More on Grass Wheels

I have been writing and revising the story called Grass Wheels for the past year, struggling with various aspects of the manuscript: wondering if the characters were right, concerned about whether it should be in verse or prose, tormented by the old desire to 'please' a traditional publisher, sometimes forgetting that I have determined to self-publish. I tried to rewrite it as prose and, though it might have worked, I felt that the charm of the story suffered, so it is back to the poetic style in which it emerged from my mind.

Now that the manuscript is finished, the next struggle is in the form of illustration. Illustrating a story is (for me) just as hard as writing the manuscript. Questions abound:
  • What color palette should I use?
  • In what setting should it take place?
  • What composition would be best?
  • What should the characters look like?
  • At what angle should the pictures be?
  • How can I make the art as important as the text?
  • How can I make the art lively and funny at the same time?

As I have sketched for days on end I have been assailed by frustration over my artistic skills, and that I can't 'just do it' like Nike. Just doing it requires skill and practice, both of which are in short supply here, but not impossible to gain eventually by the said action. So, I'll keep you posted and put up some of my art so you can see it, like the picture next door to this post. Never give up!