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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 December 4, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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