Let’s face it, we all had that moment of feeling the sweat in our palms, the twitch in our leg, the short breath, the racing heart beats, the itch around the collar, or the total black out of our brain. That’s probably how Michael Bay felt when he was on that stage at CES this year. For someone as famous as Michael Bay, the steak was high, and the embarrassment could be immense.
Indeed, that was what happened. The media was stunned and had a frenzy about his epic stage walk-off. Who wouldn’t love watching a stunning epic fail of a celebrity?
I feel Michael’s pain, and I feel deep sympathy and empathy. We could all be in that situation at some point of our lives. We are just not Michael Bay.
A lot of times, we are forced to be judged by our performance in front of many, and we often had very little time to recover from any small mistakes or surprises during our speech, like the speech prompter in Michael’s case. Stage fright is due to the anxiety and fear of failing, as many times, the perceived steak could be very high. Whether its a client presentation, a conference keynote speech, or even an company internal brainstorming, you could suddenly be thrown out of your train of thoughts and find yourself lost in a strange world feeling you are alone under the spotlights starred at by many from outer space. Your reputation, status, success or even dignity could be at risk. Then you start to panic, missing more thoughts which should have now filled your brain and mouth. Instead, you couldn’t think of a word and couldn’t speak a word. It could feel like a nightmare and your mind starts to swing in between escaping the scene and total denial. Fight or flight. It’s now up to our instinct to save or abandon our professional images.
We are all humans and we all naturally have stage frights (the fear of publicly speaking in front of a large crowd). Often it has little to do with our competency or confidence, it’s all about our natural instincts. But many of us are required to deliver seemingly ‘spotless’ public speech in our career or life events, how can we cope with the natural fear of our body and mind? Here are some tips I have learned in my past experience delivering speech and presentations:
Get excited, not calm down! Recent research published by Harvard Business School suggests trying to calm down when experiencing stage fright isn’t helpful. Instead, the more excited we are, the better we cope with the nerves.
Take some deep breath, and don’t be afraid of being noticed. Take a break and put yourself together.
Deliver a joke, or a small action of distraction. Sip some water sometimes give you the natural break in between words, and no one would judge for drinking water.
Charge up, repeat or reiterate what you have said just a moment ago. I know it may seem counter intuitive, but repeating yourself in a smart way gives you the time you need to process the situation and pick up where you left off in your thoughts.
Don’t be afraid to raise your voice and show some emotions. If you speak harder and louder, chances are your focus will quickly move away from the fear to the topic that really excites you and your audience.
And my last tip, thanks to big names like Michael Bay, think about Michael when you are in his shoes. Remember you are not alone, and you will certainly not be judged as the worst speaker in history. What do you have to lose? Free yourself and go for it.
Finally that feeling of conquering yourself and taking control of the audience is extremely satisfying. I know you know what you have to say, so just don’t walk off the stage since Michael has done us a favour to set that bar low. Stick to your feet and feel the thrill of leading the intellectual and emotional journey of your audience. Trust me, you will love it.