Stage fright doesn’t just occur in your head. Sometimes it’s the physical symptoms of your nervousness that cause you the most trouble—and reveal your anxiety to your audience. Marjorie Brody, one of America’s most accomplished speakers and speaking coaches, cites seven major forms of physical stage fright … and 14 ways to cope with them.
For dry mouth:
- Avoid dairy products, soda and alcoholic beverages for an hour or so before you speak.
- Lightly coat your teeth with petroleum jelly. That will keep your lips from sticking to your teeth.
- As an emergency measure against oral dryness, bite the tip of your tongue. That will help you to salivate.
- Drink room-temperature or warm water—with lemon, if available. Ronald Reagan frequently did that before delivering a major speech.
For sweaty hands or body:
- Use talcum powder or cornstarch on your hands or body to absorb excess moisture.
- Carry a handkerchief—but use it only when you really must.
- For blushing or breaking into red splotches when nervous:
- Women should wear pink or red colors. A red tie and strong, dark suit colors help for men.
- Women should wear high necklines.
- Use humor to release endorphins—natural proteins that can exert a calming effect on the brain and relieve blushing.
For shaky voice:
- Make a concentrated effort to project your voice to the back row of your audience. Louder, more forceful projection will cut down on the vocal wobble.
For shaky hands:
- Gesture—but use small gestures and avoid jerky or wild movements.
For shaky legs or knocking knees:
- Move about the platform or circulate in the room.
For rapid heartbeat:
- Breathe deeply.
- Avoid caffeine before speaking.
— Adapted from Speaking Your Way to the Top, Marjorie Brody, Allyn and Bacon, http://vig.pearsoned.co.uk.