Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Got Stagefright? Try This.

Many of my clients prefer to speak with a podium because "it gives me something to hold on to."

The impulse to hold onto something is sound. It makes you feel grounded - which is a very good thing when you're nervous.

I remembered that in February 2007, the Washington Post published an article about stagefright in which they highlighted techniques used at the Stagefright Survival School in Alexandria, VA:

"We also use grounding techniques," Charney says. "You grab hold of the podium and with your hands squeeze as hard as you can. You move the locus of attention away from your bad thoughts to your hand. Pain in your hand is better than craziness in your mind at the moment."

The problem is that there really is no way to hold onto the podium gracefully. You always look as though you're clinging to it for dear life - which perhaps you are.

Here is a technique I learned from the Ron Hoff's public speaking handbook, I Can See You Naked:

As you speak, keep your arms loosely by your sides and on each hand, press your thumb and forefinger together. You will feel as though you are holding on to something - and the best part is that the audience will never know.

It's a grounding technique that helps control stagefright, while keeping the speaker looking strong.


Anonymous said...

Makes sense especially when there's no podium, but mightn't the hands at your side posture look a little wooden?

Sarah Gershman said...

That depends. In the acting world, this position is called "heroic neutral." For many speakers, it is a position of great strength, while for others it may seem or look awkward. I've often found that it feels awkward at first, but if you practice, it can be a very empowering - and liberating - stance.

Another option is to stand with your hands in front of you at waist level. This is a great position from which to gesture.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Sarah, I wrote about that same article here: http://coachlisab.blogspot.com/2007/03/grab-hold-of-what.html. I thought it was some of the worst public speaking advice I had ever heard!

Sarah Gershman said...

Thank you for reading, Lisa. I especially appreciated Ed Barks' point about the importance of getting to the root of stagefright rather than just treating the symptoms.