Shyness and stage fright are part of our flight or fight response, but how can we overcome them? The first step is to know that it’s normal. The other thing to realize is that delivery is the least important part of getting your message across. Your audience will give you the benefit of doubt if they care about what you’re talking about.
The first question your audience asks is, “Do I care and should I listen?” You can pique their curiosity with an interesting fact or story. The other option is to be more direct about addressing that question. Move past your stage fright and focus in on the audience’s goal in the first few seconds of your talk.
The second question is “Do I understand this?” The Red Thread helps your audience get on board by breaking down how your idea helps them reach a Goal by solving a Problem. Again, delivery doesn’t really come into play and knowing that can help with shyness and stage fright.
The third question is, “Do I like and do I trust this information?” This is where delivery and the audience’s feelings about you can come into play. You can help overcome shyness and stage fright by simply being honest about how you feel.
Passion trumps polish every time. If you connect with the material the audience will see that. The other thing you can focus on, instead of your stage fright, is connecting with the audience. As Neen James says, “You’ll never be nervous if you’re in service.” The final thing to connect with is the message. Take care of the structure and make that personal connection with the Red Thread.
- Linda Ugelow – Great coach for overcoming shyness or stage fright
- Be Ah-Mazing: 5 Ways to Overcome Nerves When Presenting by Neen James
- My Best Piece of Writing Advice – EP047
- How to Find Your Why… All Four of Them – EP067
- The Red Thread Assessment
– Hi. I have a confession to make. I’m actually really shy. Anyone else out there? Oh, good. Now, I know it’s a little bit ironic that, as a shy person, I like to say situational extrovert, that I speak and talk and train other people for a living. But that’s because I learned how to work with it, and eventually work through it. And that’s what I want to talk about today on Find the Red Thread. I’m your host, Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com. And if you’re a fan, please like and subscribe.
So what is shyness and stage fright, really, when it comes to presenting? The first thing we have to understand is that we as humans are pack animals. We are designed from wiring-up, brain included, to be traveling with the pack. To be looking together at a common enemy or a common goal. Not to be that one person standing in front of the pack. When that happens, that makes us feel, at a base-wiring level, that maybe we’re the enemy. And of course, our bodies are going to respond in a fright, flight, or freeze maneuver.
Once we know that though, we’ve got something to work with. Now there’s another thing it’s important for us to know and to work with. We need the right message to the right people at the right time delivered in the right way. Delivery, however, is actually the least important part of getting your message across.
Now that can sound really counterintuitive because you say, “Wait, wait, wait, that’s the first thing people notice though. They notice whether or not I feel comfortable or strong up on stage.” That’s true, but the audience will give you the benefit of the doubt if what you’re talking about is important to them.
There’s a way to get the benefit of the doubt: tell the audience that you’re feeling a little nervous. First of all, that relieves the pressure from you of feeling like you have to hide it. And then, second, it allows your nervousness to put you back in the pack. It allows the audience to be in support of you now towards a common goal.
But let’s get back to this first question that an audience asks truly, which is, do I care? Should I listen? What you need to get as a performer, as a presenter, comes down to whether or not they’re interested in what you have to say.
There’s two ways to do this. One is to pique their curiosity with an interesting fact, an interesting story, a provocative question. But the second, is to straight-up tell them that whatever you’re talking about is something that they’re going to care about.
That’s why, if we’re using the Red Thread Method to come up with a presentation or a message, we figure out what the audience’s goal is first. The thing that they’re already actively looking for that the thing that we’re talking about will ultimately help them get. If we state that goal some time in at the start, then the audience gets to answer, yes, to that question, should I listen?
Once somebody is listening, they need to make sure that they understand it. So that’s the second big question that an audience asks of itself. It’s whether or not I understand what I’m listening to.
You notice this, also, doesn’t have much to do with delivery. This goes back to understanding how have you structured your message in the first place. This is where understanding how we, as humans, whether presenter or audience, process information comes into play.
We want to know what we’re looking for, what this is all about. That’s the Goal. We want to know what’s getting in the way. That’s the Problem. We want to understand why that Problem is such a problem. That’s the Truth, or the Idea, as we used to call it.
And, also, why there is hope for how to solve the Problem and achieve the Goal. That’s also the Truth. But how we solve the Problem is the Change and how we get to the Change is the Action. When you present your information in that order, you’ll get that yes to, “Do I understand?”
It’s the third big “yes” that you need to get from the audience where delivery comes in. And that’s, “Do I like and do I trust this information?” “Like the information” comes into play with how you present it in the first place. If we use the Red Thread Method, we’ve positioned all of the information from how the audience would see it and most likely accept it. Trusting the information also comes into play with, how are you backing up the information?
But there is also this kind of secondary question related to do I like and trust it that comes back to you as the presenter. “Do I like and do I trust you?” And this is where just being honest about how you feel on stage is going to help you. But there’s another thing that will help you feel confident in what you’re delivering. Make sure the message that you’re about to deliver matters to the people that you’re talking to, it’s structured in a way that they’ll understand, but also that it’s connected to you personally. After all, the best message is the one you’re confident in delivering.
So often, most delivery problems come because, at some level, we know whether or not this is the right message for this audience. If you take care of that though, if you do the work, and if you find why it matters to you, then you will feel confident in what you have to say.
The most important thing that will help you overcome shyness, is to connect. Connect with the message. Connect with the audience. Connect with yourself.
Connect with the message means find what you are passionate about in that message. Because passion trumps polish every time. If you really care about it, not only will people see that, it’s much more likely that your nerves will be less important. They’ll be less prominent to you because you care so much about what you’re saying.
Another alternative, or something to do in addition, is to focus on connecting with the audience. My good friend, Neen James, says that, “You’ll never be nervous if you’re in service.” And she says that to remind us that, if we’re there to serve the audience, it takes us out of the equation. It puts the audience and our message front and center.
The third thing we need to connect with is this combination of you and the message, you and your faith in the message. And, I hope that that’s where the Red Thread Method comes in. Remember, I overthink so you don’t have to. So this is a process that has been proven over and over and over again. It makes sure that your message, not only is relevant to your audience, so they will care, and second, so it’s structured in a way that they’ll understand it. And then, the “like and trust,” it comes down to you and the other two pieces.
So, is it possible to overcome shyness? Absolutely. And the good new is, the more that you do it, honestly, the more comfortable you’ll be. Because you start to recognize that certain of your responses are always there. But, if you’re like me, and you really even want to get rid of those responses, then, talk with someone else.
There’s a good friend of mine, a woman named Linda Ugelow who works with speakers and presenters on how to get past their discomfort on stage and on camera. The last little piece of information I’ll give you is, remember that wiring that makes it feel like, oh my gosh, what’s going on? Studies show that that wiring sets off the same reactions in your body as being excited about something. You might say, well, I’m never excited to go on a roller coaster and that’s what presenting feels like to me. But those same studies show that you need to reframe how you’re feeling, those physical sensations, to, “I am excited.” Then it can undo, it can reframe, it can remove the panic and the fear from getting out in front of other people.
So, back to what should you be excited about. I’ve already given you that. You are excited about the message itself, the message that you’re trying to deliver. About serving the audience or about the work that you’ve done to get this important message out there across. I know that you can work with and work through any shyness that comes into play with you as a presenter. I know that because I’ve done it too. And I’ve seen many, many others.
So, if you’re looking for more help with getting past that stage fright, talk to Linda. If you’re looking for more help on making sure that message connects with you and the audience, well I’m here to help with that too. I’m also excited to announce that I have a new assessment that you can take to figure out just how tight that that connection really is. And you can find it right on my website, tamsenwebster.com/redthreadtest. I hope you enjoyed this episode of Find the Red Thread. I’m your host, Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com. And I hope you’ll tune in next week.