How to Manage Stage-Fright while Speaking Before An Audience

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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.