During a debate or any public speaking engagement, a student may become overwhelmed with a specific anxiety – often referred to as stage fright. It happens to the very best of us, but it’s how we handle it that separates the great speakers from the mediocre ones. If you find yourself with a bad case of stage fright, here are a few tips to overcoming it.
Know the Material
The biggest cause of stage fright is triggered by a lack of knowledge. If you do not completely understand the topic you are going to be discussing, then there’s no way you’ll be able to speak confidently about it. Before every speaking engagement, become a master of the topic. Know all the ins and outs, so you’re prepared for anything. Knowing what you’re talking about is half the battle.
If you are getting ready to speak and are suddenly gripped by anxiety, meditation can bring you back to reality. There are hundreds of guided meditation podcasts, videos, and audio files from you to choose from – even in a pinch. Pick a guided meditation that’s specifically to relieve stress and take 10-15 minutes to ground yourself in reality. By giving your mind a break, you’ve successfully convinced it that there is no immediate danger and everything will be okay. Now it’s time to get out there are knock ‘em dead!
Practice, Practice, Practice
There’s nothing like practice to calm the nerves. Through your practice, you should be going over and over your speech, coordinating it with visual aids, and getting the timing down. Doing this kind of practice removes all variables for your mind to grab onto. If you’ve practiced the speech dozens of times, you know exactly what to expect and can be a little more at ease.
Have a Cheat Sheet
Write yourself an outline of your speech. It does not have to be detailed. This is purely a roadmap for you in case you get lost. Having a cheat sheet can be the little trick you need to realize you have everything in place. If and when something deviates from the original plan, you’ll have a visual aid right in front of you to bring it all back on track. With your road map, there’s nothing to fear.
Just because you are nervous, that does not give you an excuse to zip through your speech at the speed of light. When you feel yourself speaking incredibly fast, slow everything down. You speaking that way is only confusing people, working your nervous system up even more, and delivering a really unpleasant speech to listen to. Pause to take a few deep breaths, recenter yourself, and pick up where you left off. It’s better to read slow and a little shaky than it is to zip through.