Monday, October 5, 2015

How I Plan to Beat Stage Fright –The Un-speech

Boy! This stage fright is real (looks back). I had everything planned out before getting up, and now they’re, gone. What happened from that point (points back) to this point? We may never know.

I first had the idea to give this un-speech about a week ago. I remember how my hands were trembling as I jotted down my ideas. It was a rush for me. I was going to give a speech about giving a speech. It would be like The Emperor Without Clothes. If the audience didn’t get it, well, they simply don’t. But I know we all will because we’ve all been there. Toastmasters, I’m talking about stage fright.

My body image was never my strength. I dreaded being on stage so much, I skipped all my middle school plays. Till this day, my legs turn jelly when I’m called up to speak. Have you ever waited your turn at a Round Robin? Your palms get sweaty and your eyes start bugging out. Your thoughts stutter to your loud heart beat, and you pray the next person goes on and on… until time runs out. Such is the mystery behind stage fright. 200,000 years of human evolution and the body still can’t tell the difference between a Saber-Tooth Tiger and 20 harmless toastmasters on a cold Saturday morning. I've never been more terrified, until now. One advice I'd give to anyone willing to torture him or herself by attempting public speaking is, never try to interpret the audience reactions, especially at Toastmasters. Just because Brian is shaking his head or Nadine has a blank stare doesn’t mean they disapprove of your joke. They may be having a hard time figuring out their own speech.

My plan is to deliver this un-speech that explains what is happening to me, all while it's happening? I’m hoping this gives you, the audience, permission to think about stage fright. You do not have to feel bad for me because I’m nervous. You’re experiencing that with me, and in the end, we are one big happy nervous uncomfortable family. By thinking about my audience, by embracing and exploiting my problem, I am able to take something that is blocking my progress and turn it into something that is essential for my success. 

I promised myself I would come back week after week to give this un-speech until my nervousness goes away. I see it in your eyes, “don’t worry so much, you’ll be great.” Your advice is gentle, but late, because I’m up on stage and you’re seated comfortably in the crowd.

But If I wasn’t ready to face this, I surely won’t be up here. I like to tell myself, I’m gaining momentum, slowly but surely. Maybe next week I’ll be more confident. My voice will flow smoothly like Bernard’s and I'll just get up and start speaking. My vocal chords will be much clearer and I’ll speak slightly faster than I got up from my seat. Eventually, over time, I wouldn’t have to give this un-speech ever because my stage fright will be gone forever. Can I get an Amen!