When you speak for a living, you get all kinds of questions. One of the most common questions has to do with conquering the fear known as “stage fright.” One of my answers to how one can address that fear is this: “Do anything a few thousand times and you’ll no longer fear doing it.” That may be a great answer, but most people will never be doing public speaking a few thousand times… nor do they have any desire to do so.
So how can I help someone who wants to overcome stage fright who doesn’t have the benefit of repetition? I often whisper six words: “The audience is rooting for you.”
For a moment, imagine that what I just said is true. Now imagine I followed that thought with this one: “Hey, I just spoke to everyone in the audience and they all told me that they hope you do a great job today.” Suspend your disbelief for a moment and honestly ask yourself if you knew, for a fact, that this was true, wouldn’t you go into that boardroom, or onto that stage, with confidence and less anxiety?
Now, all I need to do is prove that the people in that audience are really rooting for you! Before we speak, we are often very focused on ourselves, and our own needs. Because of that, we completely forget about the people in the audience and their needs. For decades, I’ve asked people in different audiences many questions, and I’ve never heard even one audience member tell me that he or she was hoping to get as little information as possible from my presentation. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard quite the opposite.
- I’ve heard audience members tell me that they didn’t want to have their time wasted.
- I’ve heard audience members tell me that they did not want a presenter who was ill prepared.
- I’ve heard audience members tell me that they did not want a presenter who was indifferent, or didn’t care.
In other words, the members of your audience are, in fact, rooting for you to be successful. It isn’t because they care so deeply about you, but rather because by rooting for you, they are rooting for themselves. It does them no good to root against you! The anchor of Good Morning America, Robin Roberts, explains how she copes with her speaking anxiety:
It’s about focusing on the fight and not the fright.
Now that you know you have an entire room of people rooting for you, the next time it’s your turn speak, put a lion in your heart, get up there, and enjoy your time with your new found friends!