I was conducting a Public Speaking Workshop for 5th to 7th std students. At the end of day 1, we had given speeches to all the students. They had to prepare and give the speech the next day in front of the audience.
Next day, at the start of the session Keval* came to me. His facial expressions showed that there was something wrong. He almost had tears in his eyes. (*Name changed)
Keval: Sir,I am not feeling well. I have pain in my chest.
Me: (I got worried) OK. Since when is it paining?
Keval: Since yesterday evening.
Me: Oh. Did you tell your parents?
Keval: Yes. I told my mother.
Me: Then? Have you consulted a doctor?
Keval: She said it is OK. I get this feeling whenever I have to speak in front of the audience.
I was relieved. This was again a case of performance anxiety or stage fright. I comforted him that if he has prepared his speech, I will tell him how to deliver it properly.
In 2016, I happened to listen to a TEDx speech by an 11 year old girl Ishita Katyal. She was superb in front of the huge audience.
So, on one hand we have students like Keval who have fear of speaking in front of public and on the other we have Ishita who can speak very boldly in front of public. Why is there such a difference?
Causes of stage fright
Many people believe that stage confidence is god gifted. Therefore some people have stage fear and performance anxiety and some are confident. The reality is – public speaking or stage confidence is an acquired skill and needs to be learnt.
People don’t realize that speaking and public speaking are different. They assume that since they know speaking, they can speak in public as well
There are 3 main reasons why people have stage fright:
- Lack of Learning: Not knowing the right techniques or no formal learning of public speaking. If you have not learnt swimming, you will drown in water. Same way, if you have not learnt public speaking, you will have stage fright.
- Lack of practice: Some people have knowledge about what is required to speak confidently in front of public. But they do not put in efforts in practice.
- Negative thinking: Many people have knowledge of the techniques and they also put in efforts. But they still falter on stage due to their negative thinking. They keep on getting influenced by some incidents of the past and think that they are going to mess up with the speech.
How to overcome stage fright
Since we know the reasons, we also know how to get the solution to the problem of stage fright.
- Learn: Children need structured inputs on how to become a better public speaker. This can come from books, videos, workshops, after school classes, etc. If you have an elder in the family who is a good speaker, she can guide the child on the nuances.
- Practice: Like in any performing art or sport, good speaking needs practice. Parents need to motivate children to put in these efforts even if it is boring at times. They need to utilize opportunities to speak to different audiences to become a better speaker.
- Positive thinking: Children need to be taught the art of affirmation and visualization to overcome the hangover of any bad memory. They need to think about themselves as improving speaker.
Keval had some bad memories about his speaking in the past. Now, he knew the techniques, had practiced and learnt how to think positively. As the time for performance came in the evening, he spoke fluently in front of a large gathering. His chest pain had gone away without medication.