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Six Steps To Help You Conquer Stage Fright

Six Steps To Help You Conquer Stage Fright

Ever feel you’re not ready for the spotlight? Master your fears using these six steps to knock your performance outta the park! Stage fright (also known as performance anxiety) is not so difficult to overcome if you follow a few easy steps. These will work for any type of public speaking, from the board meeting presentation to Broadway. Follow the first three steps to get yourself ready, and the next three for the big night itself.

1. Preparation is key.

Do everything you can to prepare for your moment to shine. Memorize, rehearse, practice your presentation in front of your trusted friends: there’ll be less performance anxiety that way. If it’s a singing engagement, try practicing your song at a busy Karaoke bar. You’ll get all the crowd, without all of the pressure.

To overcome your stage fright, be sure to come up with performance goals for yourself. If you know you tend to sing louder at the end of your set, try singing louder at the start. If you want to slow down the pace of your presentation, then use a stopwatch while you practice. Performance goals can give you something to hone in on during rehearsal, and you can focus on your goals in your actual performance.

Have everything together when you practice, all of the materials you might need, notes, microphone, stool, musical instruments, and of course, bottled water. (You’ve got to stay hydrated!) And dress up when you rehearse! Nothing prepares you for the real deal like looking the part.

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2. Calm yourself.

In order to ease your mind in preparing for public speaking, find effective ways to calm yourself. A lot can be said about taking time to relax. Honestly, even a worst-case-scenario of your performance wouldn’t involve a literal train wreck. Take it easy. Meditate. If you believe in a god, pray to her or him. Or just ask the muses to keep you inspired. Do anything you can to calm yourself down both offstage and just before you go onstage.

3. Alter your perception of the audience.

I’ve heard it said before if you picture an audience naked it can help you to perform. Now I can see how that might help you feel more confident, but it might also make you uncomfortable or give you the giggles. Here are a number of ways you can perceive the audience that will definitely help you to perform.

This is a biggie. This is probably the number one reason you experience stage fright. If you are afraid of a big audience, there are a number of things you can do. First, try to think of the whole audience as a unit. Or try to pick out a single member of the audience and deliver a good deal of your speech to that person. If there’s only one, it might be easier for you to perform to him or her.

Second, picture the whole audience is made up of only your friends and family. By thinking of people who love you and want the best for you, it will make the whole experience easier to swallow. Also, if you are performing for a low-lit room of people – use the darkness to your advantage! No need for eye contact.

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A friend of mine had a very different suggestion: “If you have to perform for a large audience, picture them as a bunch of cattle. At any event, there will be people who don’t even want to be there: some preoccupied with themselves, others on their phones. You don’t have to perform for them. And you can’t please everyone, so don’t worry about stage fright.” By depersonalizing the audience, you can compartmentalize them. If your performance isn’t such an extravaganza, it may be easier for you to overcome your performance anxiety. Remember to do these next few steps as you perform.

4. You are in control.

Right before the show starts, you may be nervous, but remember you have all the control. You can get ready for it and ultimately, the pacing is up to you. And you can do the entire show just for yourself if you want to. Maybe the audience isn’t even there. (In that case, no need to have stage fright at all.)

You can pray again, or meditate before everything starts. Some actors sit in their trailers and do acting exercises before they begin. All of your preparedness will kick in again here. Be sure to have all of your materials at hand again: your costumes, your instruments, your water. These can be your last minute comforts before you grace the stage with your presence. Remember the scout motto: Be prepared.

5. The show must go on.

Once the show starts, you have to go through with it. This might not sound comforting at first, but it’s as helpful as it is true. You will have less and less stage fright as the show goes on, because you know it’s coming to a close. Therefore, once it’s underway you’ve only got to wait it out. So embrace it — Dive right in!

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Also, a mistake is only a bad thing if you make it that way. Many performers practice a technique called “railroading.” When you make a mistake, don’t draw any attention to it. An acting teacher once told me: “The audience is pretty clueless. They’re not going to notice your mistakes unless you make them a big deal. You will notice your mistakes because you have the script memorized and you’ve rehearsed it perfectly a hundred times. But they don’t know your lines. And they won’t see you walked the wrong way, instead of the way you rehearsed it. So, if you make a mistake, just keep on going.”

As the show goes on, keep focused on the performance goals you practiced. And remember to tell the story: if you get caught up in the story, you might forget you were nervous in the first place!

6. Just don’t think about it!

Sure, it’s easier said than done. Why not distract yourself a little in the hours before you go onstage? Or, you can just focus on the work. You only have to perform exactly what you rehearse. You only have to do what you’ve done before. It’s not brain surgery.

Sometimes all you have to do is give it a try to gain confidence. You could try pretending you aren’t really nervous. Sometimes the act of pretending can have a placebo effect on you — and suddenly you’re no longer nervous at all. Maybe you could imagine you are an alien with a secret message for all of humankind. Hey, it worked for Ziggy Stardust…

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Even the greatest public speakers still experience stage fright, but they’ve been able to minimize it using techniques just like these. Just remember the more shows you do, the simpler it gets. You will gain confidence as you go, and you will have memories to draw upon, reminding you performance anxiety really is no big deal. Let experience be your performance teacher, and it will get easier and easier.

Featured photo credit: Public_speaking/ProjectManhattan via upload.wikimedia.org

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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