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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Stage Fright

Speech apprehension is normal and we never really get over it.

The only way to tackle it is to get up there and speak.

There are "tricks" and "suggestions" on-line and in textbooks, but the truth is that the best way is to simply get up and speak, and not worry about what others will think.

Easy for me to say?

Well, there are methods, from breathing exercises to finding only the friendly faces in the audience, to thinking of the reality that you probably will never see these people again. For class the best way to is to cognitively restructure your thoughts and realize the's only a class.

The following is reproduced from a blog (information on how to subscribe is included below) which gives practical advice geared toward business, but can easily be applied in this course. The material is the property of the authors and should be respected as such (see plagiarism).

Additional material can be found elsewhere in this blog (Communication Professors' News and Views), in links provided, in your textbook and by searching the Internet. We also highly recommend visits to the Communication Labs located at each of CSN's main campus locations.

The required textbook this term, to which this blog and materials on Angel are geared, is:

Coopman, S. J. & Lull, J. (2009).  Public speaking: The evolving art. With supplemental materials for the Department of Communication at CSN. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

-Ed. Art Lynch

Click "read more" for advice on dealing with the "butterflies".


A free E-zine from Communication Excellence Institute, dedicated to improving communication in higher education. 

 Welcome to this issue of our free E-zine, People Skills for Skilled People!

In this issue, we’ll look at a topic that has a huge impact on your career success. It’s about a condition that can seriously slow or stop your professional forward motion. We’re going to explore…

Stage Fright:
Getting Your Butterflies “Flying in Formation”

Vol. 3, No.1

You’re moving up in administration on your campus, and you’re giving more and more presentations. For the most part, you’re getting pretty good feedback on them. You know you can get up and give a cogent coherent presentation; but after most of them, you’re left with a feeling that something just isn’t sitting right. You’re not sure you really connected with the audience. Or maybe you can’t remember if you hit all the key points you wanted to. You might even have had moments when you felt like you were in a “white tunnel.”

If you’ve felt anything like this, you may have had a case of stage fright, or what goes by the term “communication apprehension” in the world of communication studies. With the increased stress put on speaking well in public, you can’t afford to let this condition continue. It’s a major career spoiler that can impede your progress in job interviews, visibility in professional associations, advancement in your department, and creating your best professional image.

The good news is that stage fright can be conquered. But before it can be, we need to take a look at some of its typical manifestations. There are two kinds: physical and psychological, and they’re interrelated. Let’s start with the physical. Before or during a presentation, you may feel any or all of the following:

Sweaty palms

Dry mouth


Cold feet and hands

Shaking or trembling in body or voice

Tight muscles

Pounding heart

Churning in your stomach

Constriction in your throat

Wobbly knees

Being “tongue-tied”

These symptoms almost immediately pour over into your conscious mind, causing the following symptoms:







Then, of course, these mental conditions cause even further physical symptoms, which enhance the mental ones, etc. etc. In our speech coaching, Jan and I have seen cases where highly competent professional people simply refuse to give public presentations even though the career and professional stakes are extremely high.

What a shame! Especially since curing this condition is so simple. If you’re saying to yourself right now “Yeah, but I can’t imagine getting rid of MY stage fright,” let me offer your some powerful suggestions that will help you break the vicious cycle of communication apprehension and move to a far better place.

To escape from this downward spiraling loop, you need to realize the truth of the following three ideas and truly make them your own.

1. To the audience, you never look as nervous as you feel.

2. Your audience wants you to succeed.

This one is really motivating. Sometimes you have to give bad news in a presentation, and thus you’re apt to have a hostile audience. The truth is, even if your audience disagrees with you, they want you to make a credible presentation and will respect you for it. So why not go for it?

3. Your audience is terribly envious of you.

Do you realize how pervasive stage fright is? A while back, a survey was conducted to determine the things people were most afraid of. Among them were divorce, prison, joblessness, serious illness, and even thermonuclear war! But believe it or not, at the very top of the list was “giving a presentation!” You see, we may lose our jobs someday, or come down with a terrible disease, but that presentation, replete with PowerPoints, WILL happen next Monday morning at 10! So it’s no surprise to learn that the vast majority of audience members feel that level of fear also and admire you for being able to get up in front of a group and speak.

So how do you marshal these three ideas to cure stage fright once and for all? First, act “as if” you radiated confidence. This idea goes back to the great American psychologist William James, who said that if you pretend to be something, you’ll eventually become what you’re pretending to be—in this case, self-confident in front of groups. Since now you know that you don’t look anywhere near as nervous as you feel and your audience wants you to succeed and is actually envious of you, what have you got to lose? Just get up there, take a deep breath, maybe repeat a positive affirmation to yourself, then go for it!

One other tip. You can build confidence and poise by adopting the RSVP formula we wrote about in Volume 1, #4. Check it out on our website

Now here are some do’s and don’t’s that will bring your body into better control:

Don’t sit quietly before your speech. In private, move around and limber up!

Don’t eat much before starting to speak.

Avoid dairy products at all costs for four hours before your presentation. They cause phlegm build-up.

Drink cool water with lemon to soothe your throat, and AVOID ALCOHOL!

Let a throat lozenge dissolve in your mouth. They make lozenges specifically for singers and speakers.

Have a glass of water (without ice) near you.

After you get up and stand before the group, take a couple of “beats” before starting.

Breathe, smile, then speak with full volume and high energy.

Speak a little more slowly than you would normally; This gives you time to think, and the audience appreciates a more relaxed rate.

Remember: They’ll never know what you didn’t tell them. If you forget or skip over a section you planned, the audience doesn’t know you made a “mistake,” so relax!

Taken together, you can count on all these ideas and techniques to give you a new lease on life behind the lectern. So put fear behind and career advancement ahead. Get your butterflies flying in formation, and you’ll “wow ‘em” every time!

Yours in great communication,

Jan & Neal Palmer


nicole said...

BC 550
I think that everyone should have a printout of just this so they have some steps to learn to relax. I think it would be a good idea to quickly overview it before you speak if your one who gets nervous. But I would also like to add another idea to the 3 to help you get out of the spiraling downward loop, I would like to add to the class that were all in this together and were all going to make it through!

Lisa C. said...

I think this is a good article to read before speeches like nicole said. This article has many good points some maybe a little over board on a few. I think if someone were to just do some simple in through the noise and out through the mouth breathing exercises then they would start to relax. Also just getting to know your audience I feel has a huge part of your comfort level when speaking in class.

Lina Ryan said...

I completely agree. I think that we get the butterflies and think that everyone wants us to fail, but the reality of the situation is that most everyone (especially those that have to get up and speak after you) really do hope that you succeed. This definitely should be a prerequisite read before any speech!

Anonymous said...

I heard something similar to this article long time ago. If I never took this into consideration, I would probably still be living under a rock somewhere with no friends. I would seriously give this advise to anyone with stage fright.

-Teresita M. Campbell

Joshua M Matul said...

Just imagine everyone in their underwear :). Alot easier said than done, what I do before giving a speech is that I tell myself (usually) I won't see these people again, its as simple as bumping sholders with someone when walking down the hall so I usually don't worry about it. If they are people I do know or will see more often odds are one speech will not change their opinion of me. Even if it is the first impression they get from me, if I will get to know them better that usually changes. It is as simple as breaking that bias you have when you meet someone new, either way the best thing for me is never to worry too much about the speech. Even in a situation where I am being judged it is like a test you do it for a few minutes, and when it is over you never have to look back at it again.

Overall the big key to speeches in my opinion is to relax, and tell yourself either it does not matter much or it will be over soon.

Bivans said...

The trick I like to use is to pretend im just talking to myself. Realizing that everyone has to do it also, and is probably just as nervous helps too.

Vaso said...

There is a lot you learn about your self in a public speaking class, like for me i never knew that my palms get sweaty before I have to speak in public . I think having a list like this that I can look at and relate to makes me feel more comfortable because it does not only happan to me !! This list is great because different things work for different people , so you can look at it and see what works best for you . It also shows you usually that everyone is dealing with the same thing when it comes to public speaking and it makes you more comfortable and hopefully face your fear of public speaking .

Jael said...

I think for people that doesn't speak in public or speeches often do get stage fright, and the only way to overcome it is to take classes and do speechesa in front of an audience. The more speeches you do the more you become comfortable with speaking in public.

Tritcy I. said...

I like what Bivans said. Pretending to be talking to myself seems like a really good idea. I think I'm going to try that. Let's see how that goes for me. I never really thought about what I could do to reduce my level of nerves when im up there giving a speech. It's nice to know that theres many ways to conquer the fear of public speaking.

Anonymous said...

I think talking in public is always hard. I love to talk and when I did my first speech I wanted to die. I was so nervous and suffered from the spotlight effect. However the more I got to know our class it was much easier. When people don't have this advantage I think the best thing is to know your topic inside and out so that you are mentally confident. practice in front of random people instead of friends and family so the level of akwardness is somewhat gone when you are in front of your real audience.
jasmine gipson
Com101 Sec 940

Anonymous said...

I must say after taking this class I am completely comfortable in talking in front of people of mass quanities now. Before taking this class I would have butterflies and sometimes nervous on what to say not to offend anyone. Or to have someone quesition me on whether I am right or wrong even if I knew everything about the topic. Taking this class I feel more confident and surprisingly a little more alive as well. I look forward to come to this class every week in my 2 years of college that has never happened before. Thank you Art Lynch!


Anonymous said...


COM 101

Michael J. Jones said...

Even though I get a little nervous and my heart rate raises. I know that if I appear to be shaken up my audience won't be able to listen properly as they will be qued in on my swaying, lack of eye contact, and low tone. So, I just take a deep breath before I go on stage and believe in what I'm telling my audience, I'll do great most of the time and other times not so good but that's why I'm here...

Anonymous said...

I agree with this. The only way to get the fright out is just to go up there and talk. The first ten seconds are the hardest but after that its not so bad.

Chris Jackson

Anonymous said...

Stage fright can and will overwhelm you. My bad jokes help me deal with it. It does not help when the people in the class are going in or out of the room, playing with thier cell phones or typing away on thier laptops. It's enoying and inconciderate.
John Allen

Anthony Reed said...

I'm not really frightened but I'll tell you that I can have all my words together before my speech and as soon as i get up there i forget everthing i had prepared in sequence. my mind goes blank and i struggle to remember things i know.

Anthony Reed

Unknown said...

I believe the best way to get over any fear is to jump in feet first and just do it. Over thinking or analyzing just causes more anxiety!

Missy Brueggemeyer

Mitch Yang said...

I concur with this article. When I go up and take a deep breath, I relax a lot.

Anonymous said...

The article says just to “get up there and spean, youll never see these people again or its just class”. Very true but its scary. My stomach goes into my throat when i speak even in a class where everyone is in the same boat and hast to do it. I still get nervous.

Jade Morton

Anonymous said...

Speaking in front of people can be frightening. And the best way to get just a step closer to feeling comfortable is breath and just go for it. The article states some good ways, especially when it says, just go up there and speak.

Miranda connell said...

Stage fright is something ive been dealing with all my life. Sometimes are easier than others. I guess it really depends on my mood that day. These are some really helpfull tips and i feel like i want to go try them out right now. I think everyone can benifit from reading this. 

Aleksandra Drapacz said...

Public speaking is an art form and a skill that needs to be practiced often. However the fear of speaking never quite goes away it just becomes much, much smaller with time.

SJ Walker BC03 said...

I like this post. personally, I dont have a filter with most of the things i say. I recently spoke on Repentance in my church & I had more jitters speaking in front of people i grew up with than i did speaking in front of a class of strangers. Ive noticed the more familiar you are with the audience the more anxious you get.

Anonymous said...

There are alot of good tips to help you when speaking. But it is hard to use them when you feel like you want to get sick because your so nevous.Lol
Danielle Hoyer

Trevino01 said...

Many people have stage fright. It's a totally normal thing. In many cases there is no way of getting rid of it, but there are ways of making it easier when you do a speech. The pointers in this blog will help you without question. If you work on those things, speeches will definitely become easier.

Danielle Scarano 4041 said...

I think i get more scared to speak in front of people i know. If I don't know the people I'm speaking in front of, I just tell myself I will never see them again so it doesn't matter what they think of my speech.

Anonymous said...

They say practice makes perfect. I dont know about that .lol but it does help calm you down. The more you do something the more familiar you get with it. Im sure for most of us this class is the first time we have had to get up and talk. I think that by the end we will all feel more comfortable that they first day we walked in. Also it is proven that breathing reduces stress and tension

Mischelle Nowery

luisa galdamez Com 4041 said...

I was tremendously scared of public speaking. I would take classes and drop out simply because i was scared. But i realized it was something i had to do for my career. So no i make sure i practice a lot. Do breathing exercises and always go first to get it over with. This semester i am actually doing better :)

Anonymous said...

I get stage fright pretty easily, I just have to remember that when I get stage fright to take a deep breathe and take it slow. I think everyone gets stage fright it just shows that your human.
Julia Miller
Com101 HN 4041

Anonymous said...

I have avoided public speaking most of my life because of the fear and sickness I felt when I would have to talk in front of a room full of people. That fear had held me back from advancing in my career. Hopefully I can learn from this and apply these skills in the future,
Angela Mains HN 4080

Anonymous said...

i hate do this because i always feel sick or throw up. when i got use to it. now my fear is gone!