My kindergarten son is getting prepared for the end of the year concert. I can tell because he’s been singing songs around the house. We got the flyer from the school and I’m lucky: my schedule will allow me to attend.
Out of the blue he said he doesn’t want to do it. I didn’t expect a six-year-old to have stage fright. I told him that I’m the only one who’s going to be watching him. I also said that everyone who is going will be parents and they will be focused on their own kids. I think it helped a little. We’ll see what happens!
Stage fright is something that plagues a great many of us – including me. I’m a speech pathologist and I’ve had moments that I froze in front of people. I’ve learned a few tricks that help me:
- Find Eye Contact “Anchors” in the Audience – Find three points in the audience to focus on. Pick one on the left, the center, and the right. You don’t have to turn and face them, but moving your eye around the crowd will loosen you up and make you feel like you are in control. You can focus on them without making actual eye contact, but keep them as points you look at.
- Have Visuals in PowerPoint or Slides – People in the audience aren’t going to be focused on you the whole time, even though you are talking. They will look at any visuals you have more than they will look at you. In fact, everyone in the audience has their own problems and agendas. So many times they will be looking down at their own phones or their notes or their peers. Many times they will just be listening to you and fading out. You are probably not the center of the audience’s universe.
- Practice by Yourself – If you feel nervous, it’s important to practice so that you know you can do it and you feel good about your skills. Don’t skip it in an attempt to avoid your speech. Practice will make you stronger.
- Have Prompts Written Out – We’ve all seen the speeches where a person just read off of cards the whole time. I’m not going to throw that person under the bus right now because hey, it’s hard to give speeches and we sometimes need our crutches to get through it. But, there are things you can do to have a more natural delivery, even if you are nervous. First, write out a heading or bullet point on PowerPoint like “Speech Therapy Tips” and under it write [insert clever story about this XYZ disorder]. This is where practice helps because you can practice a story you’ve told before and that supports the heading. Then you can go to the next heading or bullet point on your slide.
- Don’t Forget Your Conclusion – Here’s where you separate the men from the boys: Wrapping up a talk. I’ve really struggled with this, especially when I’m nervous. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve screwed up the conclusion of speeches in the past. Keep in mind that your conclusion to a speech where you take questions is different than a speech where you just walk off the stage. Tie up all the loose ends and try to end with something humorous. Nothing better than ending on laughter!
What tips do you have? Email me or tweet me at @sarahburnswu
If you have a elementary-age student, download my free PowerPoint on effective communication for students on TeachersPayTeachers.