Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Stage Fright

Do you suffer from the jitters before you have to speak in public?

Who doesn't? Over 60% of Americans report suffering from stage fright symptoms, ranging from debilitating nausea to sweaty palms, shaking knees and dry mouth. Over my years as a storyteller I have learned techniques from others to keep myself calm and actually anticipating each performance.

Here are a few suggestions:

Dry Mouth:
Sip room-temperature water. Avoid caffeine-containing liquids (tea, coffee, cola) and alcohol--these dehydrate. Avoid milk products--these may make your mouth feel "gummy." Bite the tip of your tongue. Lightly coat your teeth with Vaseline to keep your lips from sticking to them.

Tight Throat:
Do some vocal warm-up exercises. Hum. I like to do "mouth music" as a way of warming up my voice and preparing my throat. It's fun!

Sweaty Hands:
Dust your hands lightly with powder or corn starch before your presentation. Carry a hanky or tissue.

Cold Hands:
Take a quick walk, or do some isometric exercises to warm up.

Shaky Hands:
Gesture! When your hands are in motion, the shaking is less noticeable.

Eat lightly before your presentation.

Fast Pulse:
Deep breathing will help slow it down.

Shaky Knees:
Move around a little. Take a few steps toward your audience, pause, then move a few steps to one side pause, then to the other.

Red Splotches on Face and Neck:
Wear red or pink colors. Wear high-necked clothes, turtleneck shirts.

Trembling Lips:
Smile! And keep talking.

Need more information? This title is older, but still relevant:

Talk Power: How to Speak Without Fear by Natalie H. Rogers. NY: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1982.

Online Resources:

Wikipedia offers a comprehensive article with links to more information

The Anxiety Coach includes tips, background information and more

Advanced Public Speaking Institute's website is quick-reading bullet lists of suggestions to overcome stage fright.

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