Before we start, I would like to point out that, unfortunately, there is no magic pill that would make stress disappear from our lives. Work on this issue is multifaceted and is often a long process. Better coping with stress can give us an improved quality of life. It is a pity to give up opportunities in life just because they put us under stress.
There will inevitably be situations in which you will be confronted with stress and I will list some of them here.
Ways to relieve stress before public speaking
The first thing you need to take care of is preparation. The right number of repetitions will ensure that we are fully familiar with the content of our presentation. In addition, we will tame our reptilian brain, which limits us to only three options: fight, flight or pretend to be dead. So, how can we do it? Tell yourself the content of the speech. Then try to repeat it to your dog, someone you live with, friends, family or work colleagues. You will get used to performing and being the center of attention. The level of stress is always much higher when we are unprepared and do not have a thoughtful strategy. It’s a bit like the exam in college – if we only studied two hours before, then we can get very nervous. To get more help, you can ask a more experienced person for feedback.
Do you care about the opinion of others?
Many vocalists, lecturers or journalists spend their nights awake thinking about the opinions of others. In the process of socialization and growing up as children, we were shaped by messages like “what will others say?” We have learned that the opinion of others is our reference point in our actions or even life choices. Often this also applies to public speaking. Are you afraid of being criticized? Are you afraid of negative opinions or being ridiculed? You are not alone. This fear accompanies many people. You can’t please everyone. Fans of heavy metal music will not be delighted with pop, and fantasy literature readers may not be delighted with war reports. Freeing yourself from the need to meet the expectations of others and presenting something in harmony with yourself, with your values and artistic vision gives you great freedom and minimizes stress.
Ask for professional help
In a situation when the techniques and the attempts do not work, it is worth going to a professional for support. Thanks to this, we can gain essential tips or an opportunity to look at our patterns of functioning under stress and find solutions for ourselves in a safe and invaluable environment.
Mindfulness and stress
Relaxation techniques, mindfulness and meditation are becoming more and more popular. In a busy world, short moments of respite, in which we do not run, seem to be the last resort. In public speaking, the ability to relax is key. The mindfulness technique supports us in stress if we systematically practice it.
• The first step is to observe your body. Many people don’t even know they are stressed. Only later do signals such as exhaustion of the body, increased drowsiness, chronic diseases or headaches show this fact. Check when you feel stress, where in the body do you feel it (stomach, head?) How does it feel? Note in what situations it occurs – is it the biggest day before the show, five minutes before or maybe after?
• The second step is to observe the thoughts and beliefs that appear with the curiosity and kindness of a small child. For example: “I’m not competent and knowledgeable enough to present right now”, “I will compromise myself on the stage in front of a whole crowd of people”, “I can’t handle it,” “Why did I agree to do it? ” ponder all of these thoughts with the curiosity and kindness of a small child. You can even imagine a two-year-old who is curiously looking at a given thought.
• The third step is to accept these thoughts and let them flow like clouds in the sky. Imagine that the thought, for example “I can’t manage”, is a cloud in the sky that you observe with curiosity and just watch it float away.
This is a very simplified model, more on this in the bibliography at the bottom of the article.
Take care of the basics - sleeping and eating
It may seem trivial, but proper care of basic physiological needs supports you in dealing with stress. Like the mantra repeated in the media, “drink 2 litters of water a day”, “sleep at least 7 hours a day” make sense. Not only will a lack of sleep and a nutritious breakfast in the morning impair your cognitive abilities, it will also reduce your physical and mental strength to fight the symptoms of stress. This grogginess and distraction will lead to increased levels of stress.
Stress can manifest muscle tension, which, in addition to mental work, can be reduced by massage. A good physiotherapist will know which parts of the body require relaxation. What’s more, such skin contact releases endorphins and oxytocins, which have a soothing effect.
In difficult moments, you can ask for support from loved ones. Often, a friendly face in the audience or a good word said behind the scenes before starting can help relieve stress. Don’t be afraid to talk about your stage fright.
There are many relaxation techniques. Everything that causes relaxation is good. Some people calm down while doing crosswords, others while walking, cleaning or reading books. Breathing exercises may also be benefitial. Find a method that works for you. The simplest method that does not require a lot of time and resources is conscious breathing.
Plan your time for a stressful event
Don’t schedule any unnecessary tasks or activities on the day of the speech. Plan to have someone else drive your child to kindergarten in the morning; do not set up difficult conversations with clients before; think about what to wear the day before and iron it in the evening; arrange a break for a moment of relaxation and do not go off the stage.
Visualization was first utilised in sports. Mental training has been successfully used in athletes’ training for many years. Research on the human brain has shown that when we think of something as if we were doing it, i.e. hit the ball with a racket – the same regions of the brain light up as during an actual game. How do we use it? We can imagine how confident we stand on stage, we have an audience in front of us that applauds us, etc. It is worth imagining a positive effect, assuming implementation from the next point.
Positive thinking is extremely important, but at the same time you have a Plan B in case something goes wrong. How will you react when someone negates your presentation? What arguments can you use when someone disagrees with you? How will you encourage your audience to listen if you seem to be losing them? What will you do if you forget your line? How will you react when the computer stops working? By having answers to such questions before the speech, you will greatly reduce stress, because you will be prepared for every imaginable scenario. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to confront your fears.
Why do confident people feel less stress than others? It is because they believe in their abilities and they are convinced that they can handle every situation. This self-confidence is paramount in reducing stress.
If you want to make an appointment for a public speaking coaching or mentoring session, please contact me.
Nie oczekuj cudów od razu
Stanie się profesjonalnym mówcą może zająć trochę czasu i pracy. Ucz się na błędach i nie traktuj ich jak końca świata, tylko jak lekcję. Jak mawiał Einstein- nie popełniłem x błędów, tylko sprawdziłem x razy co jeszcze nie działa. Nie poddawaj się. Z mojego doświadczenia wynika, że większość ludzi boi się wystąpień. Na szkoleniach uczestnicy często mówią o tym, że są zdziwieni, iż nie tylko oni się stresują przed wyjściem na scenę. Jeśli na prawdę chcesz nad tym popracować możesz zapisać się na kurs lub indywidualną pracę z coachem, który wesprze Cię w tych obszarach, które tego wymagają.
1. “Życie, piękna katastrofa. Mądrością ciała i umysłu możesz pokonać stres, choroby i ból” Jon Kabat-Zinn
2. “Potęga teraźniejszości” Eckhart Tolle
3. “Mindfulness. Trening uważności” Mark Williams, Danny Penman
Hello. Welcome to my blog. I work as a public speaking trainer, mentor and head os speakers for TEDx Warsaw and I am certified coach at PCC level. I also help, among others, lawyers, vocalists, actors, lecturers and business people in preparation for their speeches in front of hundreds of people in the audience, as well as in conducting small meetings or presentations.
My professional path has led me through many years of music education, but also SGH and psychological studies. As the only Polish woman I performed in the Cuban musical “Conoce mi Cuba”. For many years I worked on controlling the stage fright that kept me awake at night. I have always wondered how to manage the internal critic, not to worry about the opinion of others, and how to build a real sense of confidence on stage. Now I know the answer. Recently, I have given countless interviews, which made me aware of the importance of confidence in front of the camera.