Butterflies, cold sweat and racey heart. All this is familiar to me. I have been suffering from stage anxiety as long as I can remember. Even though I consider myself as an outgoing person, thinking of giving a speech makes the feeling of anxiety arouse.
I’m not the only one.
Public speaking is said to be the biggest fear reported by many adults, topping flying, financial ruin, sickness, and even death.
Harvard University research showed that renaming ‘anxiety’ as ‘excitement’ improved performance during activities that cause anxiety.
WHAT THEY DID?
Participants were required to prepare a public speech about why they would be good work colleges. Before they gave the speech, test persons were asked to say, ‘I am excited,’ or ‘I am calm.’
According to evaluators, those who said they were excited gave speeches that were more persuasive, competent and relaxed than those who said they were calm.
The researchers repeated the test in two further settings: participants were expected to pass a difficult math test and to sing karaoke. The results were about the same.
HERE IS HOW IT WORKS:
The key to success is to rename the feeling. Reinterpreting feelings is extremely powerful. Anxiety and excitement are similar in many ways. Both are high arousal states and both contain physiological experiences – sweating, butterflies, racey heart.
Researcher Alison Wood from Harvard Business School, explains it this way: ”When you feel anxious, you’re chewing too much and focusing on potential threats. In those circumstances, people should try to focus on the potential opportunities. It really does pay to be positive, and people should say they are excited. Even if they don’t believe it at first, saying ‘I’m excited’ out loud increases authentic feelings of excitement.”
Furthermore I found a video where a social psychologist Amy Cuddy says that ‘your body language may shape who you are’. Her research on body language reveal that we can change other people’s perception, and perhaps even our own body chemistry, simply by changing body position.
A few days ago I had to deliver a short speech in front of over 30 persons(!) I did exactly what doctor Alison Wood recommends. Before stepping on stage I Spoke out loud ‘I’m excited’ plus I took ‘power positions’ recommended by Amy Cuddy and all this worked! I felt more comfortable before and on stage and I think I was more present while speaking.
I would love to hear your experiences about stepping on stage: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy Cuddy’s amazing TED talk is here.