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Managing Stage Fright and Vulnerability

Oh dear… your chest feels heavy, your throat is constricted and you feel like crying. You suddenly feel vulnerable facing the audience. The dignitaries are in the room and they expect a good performance from you. A sick feeling is rising and about to overpower your diligently rehearsed speech. The timing couldn’t be worse. This is your moment of truth. You need to portray strength, confidence and most importantly, professionalism.

Oops, too late. A tear trickles down your cheek and more bad stuff is coming.

  • Zero Day Vulnerabilities are being Weaponized faster than ever before
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    Zero Day Vulnerabilities are being Weaponized faster than ever before
The anxiety of breaking down, fainting or weeping in front of strangers is a powerful and common fear. I understand how vulnerable you feel. Many speakers would react in the following ways:-

• Rehearse the speech intensively prior to the presentation for added confidence.
• Become invisible with no voice & fade into oblivion.
• Resign to fate and enjoy the flawed glory.

Which would you choose? Here a story of my friend, Adeline who shared her story with me.

Adeline was a successful public speaker. Her audience consisted of enthusiastic, enterprising and eager property investors. Her raving fans traveled from all nooks and crannies of Singapore to hear her speak.

One fine day after one of her talks, I had the opportunity to interview her. “Adeline,” I asked. “Have you always been such a captivating, charismatic and charming speaker?” Adeline was silent for a moment For once, she seemed lost for words. Tears welled up in her beautiful eyes.

With a quivering voice, she said, “I owe my success to an elusive holy man. I started my public speaking career in a disastrous manner. In my maiden speech, my mind went blank. It was the most embarrassing moment of my life. I had forgotten what to say. One week later, I had to deliver another speech. This time my stomach felt queasy. Within minutes of speaking, I had soiled my skirt. Immediately after my speech, I had to leave the auditorium because I smelled awful. And the story goes on…

To Cry Or Not To Cry Is The Question
These are some ideas you could use if you are in the same boat:-

• Shift the focus away from yourself and instead focus your attention on the audience. Remember, the majority of them want you to succeed. In most cases, they have nothing personal against you.

• Stop being angry with yourself for all your past failures in public speaking. As the stock market investors would say, “the past does not equal the future.” The more “failure” thoughts you harbor in your mind, the more likely your presentation will end up a failure.

What You Can Do Now
One of the quickest ways to learn how to handle something you find challenging is to observe how others do it. In Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), it’s called Modeling. Here’s a good speech portraying Candy who handles her tears graciously. Go ahead and Model her.

http://www.ted.com/talks/candy_chang_before_i_die_i_want_to.html

Next time strong emotion arises in you when you speak in public, just notice it and don’t get caught up in the story. Instead, pause and connect through your eyes with another person to help keep you grounded. Pause and continue with your speech.

My friend, Toastmaster Azmi taught me a simple method to recover from such emotional overwhelming situations. He asked me to look out for a caring, cheerful & friendly face among the audience. The kind of supportive audience who will nod agreeably to you when you speak. Every time I felt like crying, fearful, etc, he asked me to look at that friendly face for emotional support. By doing so, I was able to recover faster and get on with the show.

I’ve cried a number of times when speaking in public. Guess what, the audience cried together with me! However, it is not good to leave the audience is a sad state when the speech is over. Therefore, it is always advisable to uplift their spirits and cheer them up before leaving the stage. It certainly feels like a storm has passed through leaving behind peace and tranquility. Your words will flow much better once the pent up emotions are released. “Better out than in” as someone infamous once said, and through my tears, I couldn’t agree more.

Good luck 🙂

Now that you have gained some useful pointers on how to become a better public speaker, I encourage you not to stop here. Keep “sharpening your saw” by getting practical experience on public speaking. Grab the opportunity to speak in public as often as possible. The more stage time you accrue, the higher your self-esteem and confidence will become.

Do purchase my book called Fearless Public Speaking at http://www.betterpublicspeaking.com/fearless-public-speaking-2/ This 11,500+ word book will give you more pointers towards becoming a seasoned orator. I look forward to that wonderful day in your life when you will become ‘complete’ and you will discover your true purpose in this world. May you discover it through your public speaking endeavors.

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All the best to you in all facets of your life 🙂