How can people overcome stage fright or Presentation Anxiety (PA), the clinical term? Short answer – they can’t – it’s a perfectly normal human response to fear or stress. But what I help my executive coaching clients accomplish is managing their PA through Minimizing and Masking techniques.
Minimizing – your level of PA is based on a combination of cause factors, usually the fear of specific things like the fear of forgetting, fear of looking stupid, fear of not knowing your material, etc.
Start by precisely and completely identifying all those potential specific causes of your level of PA. Then, for each, identify specific actions you can easily take to minimize that level. If it’s fear of forgetting, the minimizing actions could be to have easy to use speaker notes and practice a lot more. Your comprehensive list of action steps become your PA Minimizing Plan.
Masking – but there will always be a level of PA remaining no matter what you do and that it can vary by the kind of presentation, audience make up and other factors. So, mask what’s left by not saying or doing anything to project fear, stress or lack of confidence and consciously displaying certain behaviors that do project confidence. One effective example is to smile more. Another is to slow down. Even if all this is an illusion, the audience’s perception is your reality. If you look and sound confident to them … you are!
So, while you can’t overcome Stage Fright, you can manage it by minimizing the impact of your specific causes and masking what’s left.