Despite stage fright, you can make this the year that you own the podium
Most business leaders face stage fright at points throughout their careers, whether it’s speaking to a large crowd, talking to people at a networking event, or having a difficult conversation with a single person on your team.
It’s only natural, says executive coach Carol Lempert. “Many started their careers as engineers, accountants or programmers. It never occurred to them they would ever have to give presentations. Now they are transitioning to leadership, they’re called upon to do something they never wanted to do.”
When dealing with stage fright, Lempert says she breaks coaching down into two categories: the mental and the physical.
On the mental side, she has a number of techniques presenters can use to get through a trying experience.
One simple practice is to look at an audience as a single entity. “Think of everyone as a ginormous block that acts as one person. Given most people are usually good at one-on-one interactions, you can replicate that feeling by shifting your mindset.”
Another is to run through a worst-case scenario in your mind. “You won’t get fired for forgetting a few words. It’s not about being afraid to make mistakes. It’s about how to recover if you make one. If you think about that ahead of time, you will know what to do if things go badly.”
Don’t give in to your inner critic. “Let’s acknowledge there’s that little voice that says you hate presentations. So figure out what will give you energy instead, such as ‘I will be proud of myself if I do the best I can.’”
Visualize your presentation ahead of time. “Olympic skiers run through the course in their head before leaving the gate. The same works for presentations. Walking through different scenarios can be really powerful.”
Imagine an ally in the room with you. Lempert draws this technique from her experience as an actress auditioning for roles. “I would imagine my grandmother sitting beside the scariest looking person in the room. That gave me confidence.”
Or, place yourself into the role of someone who gives you confidence. “For example, I might love to show up in a room like Meryl Streep, so I imagine myself stepping into her body and feel that confidence flowing through me,” Lempert says.
Put this moment of your business life into perspective. “What you do for a living requires you to stand in front of others and talk. You are not going to die. Unlike a firefighter, your job does not require you take physical personal risk. In fact, the audience wants you to succeed and learn something from you.”