At sometime in your career, you're going to be asked to stand up in front of others and talk. It may be a group of five teammates, a department of 50 people -- or in front of a conference audience of 500 people.
This can produce anxiety for anyone -- even those who are professional speakers have told me they get that little flutter in their stomach before every public speech. But that's OK -- what you don't want to happen in the kind of panic that is similar to being pitched out of an airplane without a parachute.
I've heard many tips over the years about how to conquer the fear of speaking in front of others, and have used those tips myself.
Sandra Joseph, who played Christine in "The Phantom of the Opera" for almost 10 years, is now offering a few tips of her own in her book, "Unmasking What Matters: 10 Life Lessons from 10 Years on Broadway." Among her suggestions for conquering stage fright:
- Tell a story. Perhaps it's when you're with your spouse or your best friend, but take the opportunity to bring up a subject that you're passionate about. You want to feel confident sharing your thoughts with this person -- don't try this with someone who makes you nervous or insecure.
- Step outside yourself. As you're sharing your thoughts, try to sort of step outside yourself to observe how you're sharing this story. What tone of voice do you use? What hand gestures feel natural? How are you holding your body?
- Recall. The next time you need to speak to others in a high-stakes situation, try to bring forth those same qualities and characteristics that propelled your speech with your best friend or spouse. You want to be authentic -- use the gestures and speech patterns that are natural to you.
Just as Broadway actors train for many years to become proficient in their craft, you have to practice public speaking to become good at it. Try with small groups in the beginning, and work your way toward confidence with every attempt. Careers are built on the ability to effectively communicate and share ideas with others -- conquering stage fright is just another skill you need to learn to be successful.
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