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The Question that will Transform Stage Fright and Fear of Public Speaking

 The key question to ask yourself when you are frozen in fear or gripped in anxiety is “How do I say something real right now?  What is the most authentic thing I can say now?  What is true for me at this moment?” Stage fright, fear of public speaking and performance anxiety are caused by the thought that you can’t be real, that you should be perfect and that somehow you are supposed to be something that you are not. They are triggered by fear of judgment and expectation of perfection. You are afraid you will be judged as not good enough and are expecting yourself to be perfect.  If you aren’t perfect, then you judge yourself as not good enough. Either way, you are thinking that who you are is not acceptable. The way to unfreeze the tension and anxiety quickly is to be as real as you can in the moment.  For instance you might say, “Gosh I am really feeling nervous!”  Or, you could share that you would rather be walking down a dark alley at midnight than be speaking in public.  I once saw a high-powered trial consultant Cathy Bennett say that she always felt nervous in front of a new group of lawyers because she wanted to do a good job for them. My advice flies in the face of conventional wisdom that asserts you should never let them (the audience) know you are nervous.  But, stop and think, what is wrong with being nervous?  Nervousness is a genuine human emotion.  Everyone is nervous when they are on the spot.  What matters is not that you don’t feel emotion but how you use your emotion to connect with others. If you lock down on your feelings, then you go into an unemotional state, a heady, too mental state where people can’t experience who you authentically are.  People are much more likely to be engaged by you if you are human, than if you appear mechanical and unemotional. So here is the secret to overcoming stage fright – let them see your feelings. Use your feelings to build an authentic emotional connection with your audience. If you can ask yourself “What is real right now?” and say that, then the stuck emotional energy that is frozen in your body will move through you. 

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