Presentations are the worst aren’t they? You have to stand in front of people you may not even know, organize your thoughts, almost yell while watching your pronunciation and at the same time act like you know what you’re doing. To some people speaking in front of crowds comes naturally, but if you are like most of us then you’d rather hide in your seat while other people take the risk.
If you are ever going to have a professional career, you’d better get used to speaking in front of people. Obviously for things like meetings and presentations but being able to stay composed during an interview is also a major asset that people look for.
That is why I took some time to compose these steps that were shown to me from a teacher many moons ago. They should help you in your crowd speaking endeavors, you can thank me later.
Visualize Something Positive. Visualizing something that makes you happy is known to help you relax and thereby reduce stuttering. Imagine something that you love is in the room with you, or even keep a picture of something you love on the podium, or in your pocket. Just knowing that thing is there for you and supporting you is sometimes all you need, I used to imagine the awesome meal I would eat after each performance.
Get Familiar. Try to familiarize yourself with your surroundings, and if possible, rehearse in the venue so that it becomes second nature. This familiarity reduces heart rate and irregular breathing which are muscular triggers that can lead to stuttering. If you know your surroundings then you don’t have to figure things out on the fly like where people will be sitting or what way you can face.
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse. My professor used to tell us to rehearse our lines in a dark, quiet room, laying on our backs. This forces you to focus only on your voice and what you’re saying. Perhaps you can’t memorize your whole presentation, but I would suggest rehearsing your opening and closing with this technique. Plus too much practice is better than not enough. Rehearsal also gives you self confidence, which will keep you calm while speaking.
Take a Deep Breath, or a Lot of Them. Before you go on stage, focus on the pace of your breathing until you can slow it down and reduce your heart rate. Once I get a controlled rate of breathing, I try to be conscious of it when I’m on stage. If not, the adrenaline kicks in, my heart races, and I talk so fast that no one can understand me. Staying calm will keep you from doing fun things like sweating, stuttering or vomiting.
Pace Yourself. I mean actually pace – move around a bit onstage. A slow, steady walk across the stage can set a rhythm, that will help slow down your thinking and your speech, and reduce the confusion that often leads to stuttering. Sometimes the pace you make can set the flow of your speech, plus it is a lot more entertaining to listen to somebody who is active and not just standing still. Remember you need to keep your audiences attention, if you don’t they can easily turn on you.
Get Some Sleep. For a long time, I tried cramming lines and content up the last minute of the performance. Staying up all night rehearsing and memorizing. I was a wreck. My professor told me, “Rehearse and study, but the night before, sleep, a lot!”
When I was younger I used to be so scared of speaking in front of people that I would intentionally skip presentation days. Of course that severely cut my grades, but I just couldn’t get over my fear. When I got into highschool my older brother made me take beginning drama which I thought was a terrible idea. But he went out of his way to make the teacher enlist me in his class so I was stuck. The first day of class was terrible, I had to stand in a circle and talk about myself which were the two things I hate doing the most ( I mean talking about myself to other people, not standing in circles which is one of my favorite past times). After class I told the teacher that I was dropping the class. He said that if I dropped this class I would never get over my fear and it would haunt me forever. So he suggested these tips to me, I filled the examples with my own personal experiences but the core ideas are still there. Since then whenever I have to speak in front of people I always try to remember these steps and they always calm me down, I hope they can do the same for you.
Reference: Heaps, Mark. “Stop That Stutter: 6 Steps to Overcome Presentation Performance Anxiety.” Duarte. N.p., 19 Dec. 2012. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.