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Stage fright? Not tonight!

April 14th, 2011

As corrections trainers, we tend to be extroverts. If not, we develop effective public speaking skills. Sometimes, it is inherent. Others will have to learn it, as one would adapt to swimming when thrown in the water. Whatever the route we take, the destination is the same – conveying information to a large group of people.

Still, there are times that we freeze and cannot deliver the materials. Stage fright can strike the most confident speaker at any time. Of course, experience tempers this phenomenon. Yet, on the other side of the coin, the longer the career, the more likely trepidation is to occur. It is simply a numbers game.

It could come in any form from quiet desperation or as cascading flop sweat. Whatever the manifestation, a lack of confidence for the next module is left in the mind of the professional. How do we mitigate this occasional yet stifling specter? Here are some ways that I have overcome the speaking jitters.

• Take a breath. Slow things down and get some oxygen to your brain.
• Poke a little bit of fun at yourself. Lighten the mood a touch (depending on the gravity of the subject).
• Ask a question. Get others to talk a bit. Of course, use this with care, as the audience is sometimes eerily quiet.
• Start over. Restate the importance of the topic. Refocus with the light shining on the topic and not on you.
• Tell a story that has a corrections slant or delivers a message akin to the training. All instructors should compile many stories that they can pull out on a whim or as needed.
• Have a useful, related DVD handy.
• Remember that this does not happen all of the time and it will pass.
• Think later of the variables that may have stalled your presentation and work toward eliminating them.

Sometimes when we deliver the information to our colleagues we are very hard on ourselves as performers. And while this could lead to anxiety, it also can serve as a point of reflection. And that can make you into a better speaker than before. Just as you endeavor to educate others, you can learn from your own temporary stage fright.

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