See the Man With Stage Fright…

Today is Thursday, so this post is on communication skills.

All successful people have mastered three basic communication skills: conversation skills, writing skills and presentation skills.  The other day I was on a plane listening to my iPod.  Stage Fright by The Band came on.   If you’re not familiar with The Band, they were a 60s band that did a lot of studio work for Bob Dylan.  They also toured a lot on their own. 

Stage Fright is one of my favorite songs of theirs.  It goes “See the man with stage fright; just standing up there giving all his might.  He got caught in the spot light.”  Many people feel this way when they’re called on to give a presentation – caught in the spot light.  That spot light is both a threat and opportunity.

It’s a threat, because a poor presentation can have a limiting affect on your career.  It’s an opportunity, because a great presentation has launched more than one successful career.  That’s why that sticky problem of stage fright, or nerves, or butterflies or whatever you choose to call it, is no laughing matter.

In my presentation coaching, I offer one key bit of advice to conquer stage fright.  PRACTICE!  Yes, something as simple as practice can help you beat the worst case of stage fright.  When you practice your talk, you get comfortable with it.  Comfort with your material will help you defeat stage fright every time.

When you’re comfortable with your material, you feel as if you are the master of it, not the other way around.  Practice creates comfort.  The more you hear yourself say the words in your presentation, the more comfortable you become with them.  They become as familiar and comfortable as an old shoe. 
If you practice – out loud – you won’t be surprised by what comes out of your mouth when you are in front of an audience.  This is important because you won’t be thrown off by saying something unexpected. 

While I am a big advocate of practice, I don’t think it is a good idea to memorize your talk.  I suggest that you memorize your opening and closing only.  These are the two parts of a talk that people remember the most, so it is a good idea to get them down cold.  This way, you can really nail them when you are in front of your audience. 

Don’t memorize the middle part of your talk.  Use bullet points – on your PowerPoint slides or on note cards to help you stick to your agenda.  Practice really helps here.  I find that I make the best presentation when I use about 90% of the same words every time I practice.  That means I practice a talk until I hear myself saying about 90% of the same words for every bullet point.  That’s when I know I’m ready.

The common sense point here is simple.  Practice is the best way to beat stage fright. 

You may never get over stage fright completely, but you can learn to manage it.  I actually welcome it, because when I have a few nerves before I make a presentation, I know that I am “up” and ready to do the talk.

I started this post with a line from the Band’s Stage Fright: “See the man with stage fright; just standing up there giving all his might.  He got caught in the spot light.”  What follows applies here: “But when he gets to the end, he’ll want to do it all over again.”  You may have a natural aversion to public speaking, but if you practice your talks out loud, you’ll get so good at making presentations that when you get to the end of one, you’ll want to do it again.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense.  I am not posting regularly on my blog right now, as I want to concentrate on this one.  It is still up though.  Please don’t cancel your RSS feed as I will be posting there occasionally.  And, you can still get a free ebook version of my book 4 Secrets of High Performing Organizations by visiting

I’ll see you around the web and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand, my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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