Stage Fright: More Frightening than Any Halloween Ghoul

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. 

The most important point to remember is that your audience wants you to succeed; they're on your side, ready to be entertained and enlightened. Focus on them and their enjoyment of the event and not on yourself. Remember, it's not about you; it's about the audience and the story. You are the conduit through which the story will pass, and your job is to honor the story and take care of the audience. 

Another interesting perspective is that fear and excitement are almost the same emotion--both get adrenaline pumping and have similar symptoms. Your self-talk can be key to controlling stage fright. Positive thoughts like, "I am so excited about being here!" or "I can't wait to tell my story!" will help shift your focus from how nervous you are to an expectation of success.

You may still find you have sweaty hands and other annoying symptoms of stage fright even if you have mentally prepared yourself for a great performance. Here are a few suggestions to help calm down those symptoms:

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. But keep those gestures under control. Nervously flailing hands can detract from your presentation.

Eat lightly before your presentation. Avoid milk and dairy products.

Fast Pulse:
Deep breathing will help slow it down and also calms many of the other symptoms listed here.

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.

Copyright Susanna Holstein 2013. No redistribution or republication without permission from Susanna Holstein.