Stage Fright

The Fear of Public Speaking

Whether it's a speech at a professional meeting, a wedding toast, or competing in a sports event, sweaty palms and shaky knees are commonplace when speaking or performing in front of a group of people. In fact, most people experience some form of performance anxiety, if only mild. A lot can be at stake, since a good public showing might advance a career, for example. Yet fear can trip anyone up with an increased heart rate and a suddenly blank mind.

There are many practical tips for overcoming the anxiety associated with stage fright. The first is to have a firm grip on the topic or situation at hand—winging it doesn’t usually work. Practice helps, and rehearsing in front of a mirror or a friend while using index cards, if necessary, is even better. Finally, it is essential to prepare for inevitable questions which, again goes back to being very familiar with the topic at hand. 

Dealing with Stage Fright

It seems impossible, but high-profile performers, like singers Adele and Rhianna, suffer stage fright just like the rest of us. Sometimes, such phobia may be part of a larger issue that can include symptoms such as dry mouth, nausea, stuttering, tachycardia, tics, and even tremors. An extreme fear of public speaking is a subtype of social anxiety disorder, and some 7 percent of the adult American population suffer from this condition. But simple adjustments in cognitive behaviors can help ease that fear—for example, bring notes, don’t convince yourself that you will bomb, make eye contact to ease the tension.

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