How to overcome stage fright: 7 effective and proven tips
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How to overcome stage fright: 7 effective and proven tips

Stage fright is a headache for many. A panic button goes off in your brain as soon as you get to know that you have to do public speaking.

So, how to overcome stage fright? 7 effective and proven tips you should use are:

  • Acknowledge that stage fear is a very common phenomenon
  • Remember that the audience wouldn’t understand you’re nervous
  • Proper preparation with proper practice
  • Change your attitude to the audience
  • Don’t try to impress the audience
  • You don’t have to feel the urge to talk all the time
  • Keep in mind that everything is in your hands

As the fear of public speaking is a big problem for most people, I’ll share some ideas on how to overcome stage fright.

But there’s a lot more to public speaking you should know so I wrote a guide about best public speaking books to read. Check out these books here.

How widespread is stage fright?

Stage fright is primarily a fear of speaking in front of an audience. It is a certain kind of stress from the unleashed energy accumulated in the body, which becomes difficult to tolerate when entering the stage, or “danger zone”. The human body perceives the excess of unreleased energy as fear and panic.

Stage fear is like many other things that you need to learn to cope with but tt is also very certain that as long as you’re not able to start thinking more positively about doing your presentation, there won’t be many satisfying results either.

In 2007, Forbes Magazine published a list of nine most common fears. One of them was the fear of public speaking. The reasons included:

  • being afraid of what other people may think
  • being embarrassed in front of others
  • thinking about how one looks.

On this website, I have published additional international studies carried out in relation to stage fright. You can find them here and here

Now, here are 7 effective tips to overcome stage fright.

1. Acknowledge that stage fright is a very common phenomenon

„Be afraid of the day when you have nothing to whine about.“ One of the great Murphy’s Laws

This Murphy’s Law wraps up pretty well why the fear of public speaking is actually good for you. Namely, be afraid of the day when you go on stage and have no stage fright. This means that you don’t care at all about how your presentation will go. In that case, you should’ve stayed home.

A lot of people who have attended my public speaking training say, „In fact, this little fear is undoubtfully good, as it seems to be the trigger.“ My thoughts exactly! Every time before I go on stage, I get this creepy feeling, sometimes thinking, „Why the heck am I doing this?“

But I know it’s fine, and I also know that in the first few minutes of my presentation it will be over because:

  1. I’m prepared;
  2. I have a plan B in case something goes wrong;
  3. I care about the benefits for the listeners.

I’ve described in detail that stage fright in its nature is the fear of our imagination and that an average or above average performance anxiety can be found in ca. 65% of public speakers. Of them, ca. 36.5% experience a high level of stage fright.

So, if you’re concerned about facing the issue alone, it’s reasonable to understand that most people have the same problem.

If you want to know more about how to overcome stage fright then keep reading.

Recommended books

2. The audience wouldn’t understand you’re nervous

„Don’t worry about what other people think of you. They’re too busy worrying over what you think of them.“ Murphy’s Law

A whole number of people are afraid just for the reason of thinking, „What will they think of me?“ But as one of Murphy’s Laws tells us “Don’t worry about what other people think of you. They’re too busy worrying over what you think of them“, the audience worries about the exact same thing. You say, „Do you have any questions?“ and they’re thinking, „Erm… I’d ask, but what if it’s an elementary question… What will they think of me?“

You can’t control what others think of you as a person

However, being well-prepared, you can control what others think of your presentation. And that’s important! You can be the world’s coolest and kindest person, but if you give a very bad presentation, people will be angry. However, you might not be the best of people, but if your presentation is prepared and carried out perfectly, people will recognize it.

Think about the symptoms that may occur during the presentation, and you will see that they actually come from within. In other words, if you feel that your body’s going crazy inside, the audience will hardly notice anything for the most part.

How to overcome stage fright? Stop worrying about your nervousness

So, there’s no point worrying about whether your listeners will notice your nervousness, trembling, etc. – they normally wouldn’t. Even if they are aware that you’re slightly nervous, nobody takes it seriously. For all this, you don’t need to excuse yourself for being nervous at the beginning of your presentation.

Take a look at the article about How to speak with confidence in public?

3. Proper preparation

„Everything that can go wrong will go wrong.“ Murphy’s Law #1.

John Maxwell once said, „You’re an attitude away from succeeding.“ The main reason for something going wrong is usually right there, sitting on your shoulders, literally clogging your way. The main thing that can possibly make your presentation go wrong is your head that imagines things to be worse than they really are.

Therefore, I suggest that you stop thinking about „maybe failing“ and focus on the benefits you can offer to the audience. You’re not the most important person in the room, but the listeners are. Focus on them exactly as you focus on solving your friend’s problems. This way, you’ll be able to direct your focus from stage fear elsewhere.

How to overcome stage fright? Think about your listeners

It may sound like a cliché, but it’s how it is – proper preparation is the basis of success, and if you spare enough time to prepare properly, you’re safe to succeed. The more properly you prepare, the greater the likelihood that stage fear won’t touch you and you’ll give a brilliant presentation.

Preparing at home, ask yourself, „What do I want my listeners to think or do differently after I’ve finished my presentation?“ During preparation, think about who your listeners are and what their interests, needs, and expectations are. If you’re able to do a presentation that the listeners can relate to, you’ve done great, offering something valuable to your audience.

Take proper notes even if you don’t plan to use them

„If nothing else helps, read the instructions.” Another great Murphy’s Law

Notes are clearly understated by many. There’s also another popular „option“ – notes are the reason for something going wrong. It is believed that it’s better to be giving a presentation by heart, that you have to keep everything in your head. That’s not true!

Read more about How to Use Notes in a Speech and How to Speak Well Without Notes? 

Make sure you take proper notes and practice their use

Even if you don’t use them during the entire presentation, you’ll know they’re there for you. And if you’re worried about what to do with your hands, holding them on your notes is a nice way to keep them in place.

If you keep these basic things in mind, it will also be easier to overcome stage fright.

Here is a great article about How to practice a speech

4. Change your attitude to the audience

„If a man smiles when things go wrong, he remembered someone he can blame.“ Yet another Murphy’s Law

Your speech and attitude are like a boomerang: whatever you do during the presentation will come back right at you. If you’re showing with your entire presence that you’re uncomfortable and don’t want to be there, a reasonable question arises – why should the audience want to listen to you?

However, if you act cool and smile even if you feel really bad, most people will never realize there’s something wrong with you. They’ll be just as cool as you are. Coping with an occasional mistake, have the fun of yourself and you’ll see how the listeners mentally give you one big fat bonus point right away.

How to overcome stage fright? Remember that the audience is your greatest Allie

Keep in mind that the listeners don’t mean you harm, they’ve come to learn something interesting. A common understanding is that the audience wants you to fail. The reality, however, is the opposite: the audience are your greatest allies because if your presentation fails, so will they.

The audience wants to see you succeed, not fail. This alone should give you self-confidence.

The fear of public speaking is an adopted fear – in reality, people wish you well, they aren’t hostile looking at you, and you’ll do great since you’re prepared. The key point here is to believe in yourself and that you can handle it.

5. Don’t try to impress the audience

If you do so, you’ll be focussing on the wrong thing. You should focus on how to deliver your message in the most comprehensible and enjoyable way so that the listeners also benefit from it.

If you focus on making an impression, you’ll be focussing on yourself, therefore, noticing all the little mistakes that no-one else pays attention to. This, in turn, leads to a feeling of uncertainty.

Remember that no presentation is perfect!

Well, at least not for the speaker. Doing my public speaking training, I often see how, being asked from presenter how it went right after the presentation, people answer „very poorly“.

As a presenter, you notice all the blips; you remember what you forgot to tell, etc. If I ask the audience the same question, they usually say the opposite, e.g., „What are you talking about? It went very well!“ So, don’t focus on giving a perfect presentation, you’re already better than you think!

6. Stand straight. Speak clearly. Be quiet.

Thousands of years ago, in Ancient Greece, the answer to the question of what a good presentation is was given: „Stand straight. Speak clearly. Be quiet“. The last thought probably means that you don’t have to feel the urge to talk all the time, and also that you should make pauses during your speech.

To develop the idea further, today, you don’t have to do much to actually make a difference.

  1. Keep contact with your listeners (and avoid gawking at the slideshow on screen).
  2. Speak in plain and intelligible language.
  3. Smile even if you feel like fainting from the fear of public speaking.
  4. If you make an obvious slip that everybody notices, don’t make a scene but have fun of yourself, and the listeners will forgive you easily. As long as you’re friendly and cool, the audience will eagerly listen to you.

If you can at least follow the four points above, you’re better than most of the people you’ve ever seen giving a presentation.

7. Keep in mind that everything is in your hands

You know that you are well-prepared. You know what your listeners are expecting from you, and you will make sure they can benefit from your presentation. You believe in yourself and know that nobody realizes you’re actually afraid. The audience looks at you because they find you interesting, so take their gazes as a compliment.

In general, there’s no reason for you to do a poor presentation if you’ve considered the seven points above.

Take a look at the article about How to Give a Speech Without Crying

To sum up: How to overcome stage fright?

There is another Murphy’s Law that says „To err is human – it’s even more human to blame others for your mistakes“.

Still, it happens that something will occasionally go wrong. What you do is go home and analyze what went wrong and what you can do better next time.

It is also very certain that as long as you’re not able to start thinking more positively about doing your presentation, there won’t be many satisfying results either. Stage fright is like many other things that you need to learn to cope with.

Good public speakers are able to do it, but the bad ones let the fear take control of them.

So, these were my well-proven ideas on how to overcome stage fright. Please use our comment section to let me know public speaking tips and tricks you use.

Related questions

How to write a speech? How to write a speech depends on many factors. For example, type of event (official or unofficial), listeners (acquaintances or strangers), time (short or long speech), etc. The more you prepare, the better the end result will be. Some key points: pick a topic you know, define a clear objective of your speech, put down the sub-topics you’re planning to talk about, make a great introduction, etc. (Read more about it here…)

How to make a presentation? It’s always up to the speaker to decide how to make a presentation and find out what listeners like. At first, it may seem like a difficult thing to do. In reality, it’s a matter of preparation and attitude. The less time and energy you give and the more careless you are, the greater the likelihood of making a presentation nobody enjoys. (Read more about it here…)

Useful reading

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Who is Janek Tuttar?

My name is Janek Tuttar, and I am the founder and author of Speak and Conquer website.

I have been teaching public speaking at Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences

Here, I am sharing the wisdom of how to cope in different public speaking situations.

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Janek Tuttar

Hi! My name is Janek Tuttar, and I am the founder and author of SpeakAndConquer.com.

I have been teaching and blogging about public speaking since spring 2007. Here, I am sharing the wisdom of how to cope in different public speaking situations.

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