Overcoming Stage Fright: How to Get Addicted to Pitching

Overcoming Stage Fright: How to Get Addicted to Pitching

How I went from trembling to enjoying the thrill in a single year

I have always been quite introverted and this implied that I tried to avoid being the center of attention as much as possible. Just speaking with someone I didn’t know made me feel anxiousness, I was scared I cowered and I tried to end it fast, so you can imagine how it for me when it came to presentations.

Just thinking about standing in front of a group of people, even if I knew them, made me feel like puking, I couldn’t help but tremble, my voice also changed to a higher pitch and in general it was an awful experience every time.

But this year I decided to change that, I couldn’t continue like this, I had to overcome it and show myself that I could do it.

The First Step

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

I started to use every chance I got to stand on stage, the first time I started by participating in an entrepreneurship contest with some friends, I stood on the stage in front of more than 50 people and I could only stand without uttering a word. I had failed.

Thanks to the presentation of one of my teammates we won and I got another chance, this time at the international finals, I had a chance to redeem myself so I once again stood, and this time even while trebling I was able to go in front of the jury and show them the lego pieces we were using to tell the story of our pitch. It was unsightly, they could tell I was trembling, but even as it was frustrating, it was also a show of growth.

The Journey

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

Using that as a stepping stone I searched for more chances to challenge myself, I found conferences and I presented in them to as many people as I could to get used to speaking even in a one on one setting, I tried to put emotion into my presentations, I wanted them to enjoy it. By the second congress I started to get used to it, I knew I could do it.

Fast forward a few months later, I participated in the finals for two more contests and this time I was presenting alone in front of a crowd, the victory depended on how well I did it, the pressure was huge and I faced it.

Here is where I learned that meditation can come in handy when you least expect it, like, who would have expected meditation to be useful when giving pitches, but it actually is.

The “Power” of Meditation

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Mindfulness and understanding what you are feeling can let you understand that fear. Cheesy as it is, you have to embrace the nervousness. Understand which are the physical cues that tell you that you are nervous.

The quickening of your heart, the trebling of your hands and the sweating of your palms, all of them are similar to what happens when you are excited. So try to turn that nervousness, that anxiety, into excitement. Then you will start enjoying the presentations.

5 Tips To Go About it

1) Prepare thoroughly

So the first tip is that while obvious, unless you work hard and prepare before you present you will have a hard time giving a good presentation.

At first I was really stressed whenever I had to present, I still get stressed but now it doesn’t freeze me up, and this made me procrastinate. I knew I was bad and so I didn’t want to practice, it was hard, and I always had excuses.

This in turn meant that whenever the day of the presentation came I was stuck practicing until two in the morning and going without getting a wink of sleep, yet I still complained whenever my presentations sucked, one because I didn’t practice and two because I didn’t sleep.

Always practice your presentations.

2) Rehearse your body language

Rehearsing your body language, is equally if not even more important than rehearsing what you say.

The correct body language can change you from someone who seems lost to someone who looks like they are ready to eat the world. When you have it controlled you will see that as you get used to more confident and open body language you also start getting more relaxed during presentations, until you get to the point where you start enjoying them.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

3) Prepare until you are able to present even while you are taking a shower

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

The first question that comes to mind after reading the previous tip is:

But how much do I have to prepare?

At first I struggled quite a bit with this. But as I gained more experience I saw that once you are able to do you whole presentation going from start to end and also when starting at random points, you can be pretty sure that you will be able to do the presentation well enough.

This is because you have memorized it to the point where you can do other things while saying what you have to, and as such even if you are panicking your brain will kick in and save the day.

4) Practice in different places

Our brain is that it usually tries to associate what you learn to your environment. Imagine if were one of our ancestors and you found food but were unable to associate it with a place, you would have a hard time surviving.

The problem is that this is actually a problem when you have to give a pitch, because usually you don’t get to practice where you have to give the presentation and it could leave you stuck.

So whenever you can try rehearsing in different places and if you can rehearse while walking in a place you aren’t familiar with, that will enhance the effect because you will have to know it by heart if you want to say everything while traversing a place you don’t know.

5) Create a ritual

Try to create a ritual where you do the same actions every time before a presentation. This will help you relax and depending on how you do it, it will help you get into the right mindset to go for the presentation and enjoy it.

Whenever I have to present I listen to the same song, a song that relaxes me yet at the same time gives you energy and meditate while listening to it, I try to understand the feelings in my body and control my mind by noticing them and trying to change the anxiety into excitement.

Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash
Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash

The Conclusion

From now on, whenever you have to present try to listen to the same song, a song that relaxes you yet at the same time gives you energy. Meditate while listening to it, try to understand the feelings in your body and control your mind by noticing them.

Tell yourself that this is your chance, that right now you are in the centre of the event, that right there at that moment, so many amazing people are going to listen only to you, so why not enjoy the ride?

And while it might seem cringe-y, as you do it more and more, you will start to see that while you still get nervous, while you still tremble and want to puke before the presentation, the moment you get on stage you change. You start enjoying it, because you know that this is your chance.

Presenting is a skill like any other, and as such, anybody can master it if they work hard enough. Don’t let it weight you down, you just need 3 things,

  1. A change in mentality
  2. A lot of hard work
  3. And most important the drive to face the resistance and break out of the shell of the comfort zone

If you want to know more about how to present read Tim Urban’s article on his TED talk, it’s a great resource to know how prepared you are before a presentation.

PS: The album I use is ‘’There is a Tomorrow you don’t know’’ by Paint the Sky Red.

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