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Caught In The Headlights: 5 Essential Tips To Remember When Stage Fright Hits

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You're sweating. Your heart is racing; your muscles are tense. You're not aware, but you've stopped breathing.  You cross your legs. You uncross your legs. You rock. You sway.

All of your rehearsed notes have taken flight from your mind. Finally, you speak, but your mouth is dry and the voice you hear is not your own. It's squeaky, it's shaky and it's cracked. It's stage fright.

It happens to the best of us and to the worst of us, that moment when we're faced with a daunting task, like right before giving a speech or delivering a big presentation to an audience.

Or, when we've landed a job interview. Or, a big assignment. Or, when a super hottie asks us out. Or, when we're about to perform for any reason.

It’s time for that moment when we're faced with the ultimate decision: fight or flight. The funny thing about it is, nobody knows what’s happening in your head except for you. Nobody in your audience knows that you're scared.

Nobody knows you're perspiring more than you normally would. Nobody knows you forgot your lines. And, nobody cares. Your audience is not judging you. If they're seated in front of you, trust that it's because they genuinely wish to hear what you have to say.

Here are a few tricks for overcoming stage fright:

Don't Apologize

Like I said, the audience doesn't know what’s supposed to happen, so don't call attention to any blunder by saying, "Pardon me, I'm so nervous."

While it may break the ice and offer some amount of comic relief, it's more like shooting yourself in the foot before a race. Don't do it.

Breathe

It'll release some of the tension in your neck and shoulders and send much needed oxygen to your brain. It will also allow you to speak more normally and avoid sounding like a mouse caught in a trap.

Focus

Focus on your message. There's a reason why you're making this presentation. You have something to say, you have an objective and you want your audience to feel or do something.

So, rather than think about the myriad of things you're feeling, focus on your message and the reason why you're there. Focus on your mission.

Focus on your audience. Find a few friendly faces in your audience, smile and direct your presentation to them. It'll help you relax and it'll help your audience feel more connected to you.

Practice

Practice in front of a mirror, in front of a small audience of your friends and family or in front of a random woman on the street. Practice in the space in which you'll be presenting before the performance.

Practice. Practice. Practice. Become so familiar with your material, the intonations you'll use and the pauses and gestures you'll make that it will become second nature. Practice so much that it registers in your muscle memory and you could do it in your sleep, if necessary.

Visualize

This is not new-age mumbo jumbo. Visualize a successful presentation, the impact you wish to leave and your audience's desired reaction.

It'll trick your brain into thinking that you're actually not afraid and, voilà — you may not even be afraid.

Photo Credit: Getty Images