Talking Point: The Disney Institute Blog

Stage Fright: 3 Steps to More Confident Public Speaking

May 22, 2012 by Jeff James, Vice President & General Manager, Disney Institute

Did you know that in 1968, Rod Stewart, making his debut at New York’s Fillmore East Theater, was so nervous that he sang his opening song from the shadows of a speaker stack? The moral of the story is that you are not alone.

Fast Company’s Bill Wackermann has identified three primary fears that affect our ability to speak naturally in front of groups:

1.) Everyone is judging me. 
2.) I need to be perfect.
3.) I am afraid I will freeze and get stuck.

For each fear, Wackermann has identified a positive variable to counteract that fear. For instance, it is easier to tackle the fear of judgment when you remember that, by nature, people are self-interested. Chances are that the group of people in front of you is thinking more about what will be on their plate come dinnertime than that word you may have stumbled over a few moments ago.

You must also realize that nothing is perfect, and accept it. People are constantly making improvements to their homes, adding new furniture or remodeling. They don’t love their home any less for what it may lack, they love it for what it is becoming, and what it could be. Have faith in yourself and that others will appreciate you in spite of your imperfection.

Last is the technical piece. Wackermann advises that those nervous about their speaking look at the back wall, “it can’t make facial expressions to distract you.” He also points out the benefits of memorizing the most difficult part of your speech, the beginning.  Memorizing your opening and knowing backwards and forwards will give you a sense of comfort to begin your presentation.

Keep the positive variables in mind before you next speaking engagement as they offset any irrational fears that we all, even Rod Stewart, face.


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