Public speaking anxiety is one of the most common of all the fears and phobias. As per various studies, approximately 75% of people suffer from it. However, at the same time, good public speaking skills were rated as one most desired skills which parents wanted their kids to learn.
Imagine this, you’re on a stage in front of thousands of people, spotlights on you, everyone’s cheering for you. What does feel like right now? Are you excited or are you anxious? Excited is a good sign, but scared? Not at all. Those of who are scared would admit to this, you would prefer being in the coffin than give the dead person’s eulogy.
You can follow these few simple tips and techniques to overcome public speaking anxiety and stage fear
- Understand what causes anxiety or stage fear
- Positive affirmation
- Practice and Persevere
- Show ‘em your pearly whites
- Dress them comfortably
- Listen to them
- Turn their anxiety into excitement
- No one noticed it
- Laugh it off
- Final thoughts
1. Understand what causes anxiety or stage fear
We want our kids to achieve all those things we couldn’t accomplish. Not necessarily imposing, but yes, we would love to see them excel at things especially those that we found difficult e.g. fear of public speaking or conquering public speaking anxiety. We want to pass down all our secret apple pie recipes and all the wisdom and advice we wish we had while facing tough situations, do we not?
However, we would never want our children to get our fears at all. We would want them to be fearless even if it means getting a very risky job as a firefighter or even be able to perform on a stage in front of thousands of people without being scared? But how do you do that?
Every time you tell your son that he has a presentation to give in his geography class he gets anxious and starts complaining of tummy aches and fevers, he might even look flushed because of the nervousness, but how do you make him feel better and confident enough to face his class and give a presentation? Very easily, follow the steps below and your kid is going to be the next best performer.
Remember, stage fear isn’t just about getting anxious or scared because you have to speak, it could also be performing a dance recital or singing or performing a monologue on a stage or in front of a large crowd.
2. Positive affirmation
Teaching your child how to positively affirm himself is the best way to overcome any fear or negative feelings. Statements like, “I believe in, trust and have confidence in myself.” And “I know I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.” are examples of positive affirmation. Have statements like these your up to his soft board and read it at the start of his morning to begin his day on a positive note.
3. Practice and Persevere
Practising with your child is necessary, they feel like they have your support and you know how are they progressing. When you practice with your child, it lifts his morale, there is also a very low probability of them giving up. Record their practices, and go over them, prepare them well. Give them constructive feedback.
When you think your child is confident enough to perform in an empty auditorium, on a real stage do that. Take them there, dress them up in their costume and rehearse there with them a couple of times until you feel they are ready to take off on their own. If not, practising in front of soft toys always works. After practising with the soft toys take him for another round of rehearsal, ask him to imagine his soft toys instead of being overwhelmed by the huge auditorium.
5. Show ‘em your pearly whites
Plastering a smile on your face has proven to boost your mood even when you do not feel happy. It also shows that you are friendly, wouldn’t scare away the audience with the nervousness, just kidding. You know they say smile through the pain? Yep, that is exactly what you and your child are doing right now and positively affirming each other.
6. Dress them comfortably
Dressing them in comfortable clothes will ensure they wouldn’t scratch their backs or any other body part on the stage. In case he has to wear a costume which is not very comfortable then wear the costume over light and a loose tee-shirt. Just make sure he doesn’t feel very hot under the layers of clothes he is wearing for the performance.
7. Listen to them
Listen to them even if they are being gibberish, be there for them. Understand them but do not let them consume unusually large amounts of liquid before their performance.
8. Turn their anxiety into excitement
Instead of focusing on performing in front of a huge crowd, shift their focus to the part where they get a stage to share what the feel, do what they like and for the first time not be reprimanded about it. Get them excited for their performance, tune their anxiety as excitement, they will perform exceptionally. A study conducted by Harvard Business School in 2013 proved that anxiety channelized as excitement has given more positive results.
Appreciate your child’s efforts even if he fumbled a little. He gave his best, and that is what matters, nothing else. We cannot expect them to be perfect, accept that they are humans and humans can mistakes. And he is a child so well, you can forgive him for making an error. If you don’t, I ensure you that he will never get back up on a stage without feeling nervous.
10. No one noticed it, pretend that it did not happen
While practising if he makes a mistake teach him not to ponder about it in the middle of his performance, or freeze thinking he messed up and now that he will have to start over, in case if he fumbled there is a very high possibility no one caught it, even if they did, say sorry in case it is a speech or else just move on. Don’t stop. Never. Stop.
11. Laugh it off
When a kid trips on his shoelaces, he becomes a piece of laughter for his peers and maybe even some. ‘awws’ before someone helps him up. Anyone in this situation could feel one out the two things, shame and embarrassment or feel silly about how clumsy they are and laugh. The first option is not a very healthy one, the guilt and shame stay forever, but the second one helps to move on from the situation more easily. In the very same way, in case your child fumbled on the stage teach them how to laugh it off. Not that doesn’t mean you’re mocking them but neither are you encouraging mistakes. Make them regret their mistake for a while, but then tell them it is okay to make mistakes. Share your embarrassing stories with them, teach them how to laugh the mistakes off.
12. The final thoughts on overcoming your public speaking anxiety
After all, William Blake rightly said that what is now proved was once only imagined. You’ve imagined that your child will be in the spotlight, performing and delivering his best, do not let any laziness and oh but my kid is too young excuses get to you. They grow up too quickly and it is never too soon to begin practising. If you have watched Grey’s Anatomy you know that Amelia Shepherd in Season 14 before a big surgery stands up straight with her feet apart and her wrists rested on her waist, with the chin up. Standing up straight like a superhero has proved to boost confidence. A study was conducted by Harvard that when you stand up straight with your chest out, you’d feel confident at your important meeting or interview, you would also perform better at them.
You should also read how to improve your public speaking skills to overcome your public speaking anxiety.