Stage fright is extremely common. Approximately 74% of people suffer from some form of anxiety when it comes to public speaking, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In many surveys, public speaking is listed as a bigger fear for most people than death. And just because you’re not physically standing on a stage doesn’t mean you might not get stage fright when you’re giving a webinar.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s possible to go from debilitating fear at the idea of speaking in public to feeling confident and ready. Here are a few tips for dealing with stage fright while giving a webinar.
Be prepared. It can be tempting to avoid preparing for the webinar so you can avoid the anxiety of thinking about it. This isn’t a good strategy, however—the last thing you want to do in a webinar is wing it. If you have a very thorough knowledge of the subject, you’ll always have that to fall back on when you get nervous. Know your subject inside and out, and you’ll be a lot less concerned about whether someone will throw you a curveball question you can’t answer.
Practice. Practice relentlessly. Practice until you could give this presentation in your sleep. Do it in front of a colleague or family member. Ask your audience member to ask you questions. Ask for feedback on your delivery. Memorizing isn’t always the answer—for some people, it can make delivery a little stilted, and worrying about blanking out on your exact lines can add to your stress. But for others, it can reduce stress considerably to know that they have the script down cold. Practice your webinar until you know exactly what to say at all times, but you’re familiar enough with the material to go “off book” when you need to.
Shift your focus. Performance anxiety is all in your head. Instead of worrying about yourself—the way you look, the way you sound, whether or not you’ll forget some important detail of the presentation—pay attention to your audience. Are they getting the information they need? What questions are they asking? How are they reacting to various parts of the presentation? In addition, pay attention to the material—and just be aware that your goal isn’t to be the perfect presenter. It’s just to make sure your audience understands what you’re presenting. Their focus should also be on that material—not on you.
Channel your fear. You can’t stop yourself from feeling anxiety. Sometimes, however, the fact that you feel it at all just feeds into it—you’re anxious because you’re anxious. Instead of expecting to feel no fear at all—and worrying if you do—accept that you’re going to feel some anxiety no matter what, and channel that fear into your energy and passion about the subject.
Practice visualization. Anxiety is all in your head. Instead of worrying about how your presentation will go, take some time to imagine it going successfully. Picture yourself delivering a confident presentation. Imagine the positive audience reaction. Imagine yourself feeling excited to share this material, and sharing it clearly and well. Write down some affirmations that state how good you are at public speaking—it sounds cheesy, but it really works—and read them aloud to yourself.
It’s not about you. Bear in mind that, unless you’re really famous, chances are your audience isn’t there for you. They’re there for the material. As long as you aren’t getting in your own way—your presentation is clear and easy to understand, and you have a firm grasp of the material—they won’t notice you as much as they will the material they’ve come there for. Keep in mind that you’re there to serve the audience, not to look perfect—and nobody expects you to be.
Public speaking can be one of the most challenging things you do professionally—no matter what industry you work in. But with practice and dedication, you can conquer the fear and anxiety that comes along with it—extremely common fears that almost everyone feels at one point or another—and become a strong, confident public speaker.