Sunday, October 21, 2007

Stage Fright: What I did (or understood about it)

We know that there are two kinds of people. One is the type who love to get on to a stage and talk their heads off. The other type (which includes me) are the ones who are happy standing at the bottom of the stage and listening. Now mind you it does not mean that we don't speak. We could be giving those stage guys a run for their money when talking with friends and family. But when it comes to climbing those few steps of a podium and speaking, we get tongue-tied. Our hearts start beating faster, the pulse races, we have butterflies in our stomach and even fainting is a possibility.

I've always had this stage fright thing since childhood. Getting on to a stage and speaking was a no no with me. So I would avoid any debates, elocution or other such competitions although I was at a different level of thinking. I once managed to get myself registered for a Marathi elocution competition but chickened out at the last minute. Because during rehearsal when I went and stood on the stage, I got the worst case of the stage fright and could not speak a word. So I made excuses and managed to escape from there.

This trend continued even in college and engineering. I never tried for any competition in college like drama or elocution because of my stage fright. It's just recently that I have managed to improve myself. Now I still get stage fright and am scared when it comes to going on stage. But thanks to some books and philosophy I manage to overcome my fear.

Following are the things that guide me whenever I get stage fright:

1) I was lucky that I had to give presentations to people I know and had worked with a for a long time. So I would get the courage because I would tell myself that these are my friends and I am just explaining things to my friends, so there is no need to be afraid because they know me and I know them. And since the presentations were a little informal, I would try to use some humor in the presentations because humor always manages to reduce the tension.

2) Dale Carnegie's book helped me. One statement that helped was that if you are afraid of doing something then you should keep on doing it as much as possible and soon you will gain confidence in that. That is what I tried to do when I was giving presentations to people. Every presentation helped me gain more confidence in myself.

3) We get stage fright because we are afraid that we may do or say something wrong and embarrass ourselves. Important thing is to prepare ourselves well in advance and go for it. We should rehearse the presentation or speech as much as possible. Even the actors in movies do not get the shot in the first take. They have to rehearse again and again. So we should prepare and concentrate on giving the speech and throw out all the negative thoughts when we are preparing for it.

This does not mean that I have got rid of my stage fright. I still feel afraid to go on a stage and speak to many people or even while giving an interview to a client. But what has changed is that I think of it as an opportunity to face my fears, show courage and increase my confidence.

I still have terrible stage fright in cases of dancing or singing. I just cannot bring myself to do it. Reason is because I have never learned to do them. So I lack the confidence required to start doing them.

But if we need to remember anything when we get a stage fright is
"Courage is not about not being afraid. It means that although we are afraid we will face our fears"

So if you are a person who has stage fright and you want to improve, the next time you get a chance, just grab it. Go on the stage, face your fears and see the level by which your confidence will improve.

This post is for a request from a friend.

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