The effective speaker’s toolbox with Kafui Dey: Stage fright—train your brain to beat it!

Kafui Dey column: Want to be more confident? Here's How!
Photo Credit: Kafui Dey/Facebook

Hello! In last week’s article, I showed you how to shift focus from yourself to your audience. This week we look at another of the STAGE tips for beating stage fright: T for Train Your Brain.

You want to train your brain to input the right thoughts into your mind. Before you can actually do something, you’ve got to think about it first. Everything starts in the mind, and then the action takes place physically.

You’ve got to train your brain to look for the positive. This is very important for public speaking, and especially dealing with stage fright.

If your thoughts are: “What if I fail? What if they laugh at me? What if I make a fool of myself?,” you are setting yourself up for failure. By filling your mind with negative possibilities, you increase levels of nervousness and anxiety which will spill over into your speaking and give you stage fright.

Instead try to create positive scenarios. Before you speak in public, why not ask yourself, “What if I succeed? What if I deliver such a great talk that at the end of the talk, I get a standing ovation? What if at the end of my talk, somebody comes up to me and says: ‘Hey that was great. I learnt a lot from you’?”

The way to train your brain to beat stage fright is to say affirmations. Affirmations don’t just belong to the world of motivational speakers who urge their audiences: “Proclaim it to claim it”.

You can actually train your brain to expect positive outcomes. When you feel an attack of stage fright coming over you, talk to yourself positively. Here are some affirmations you can say:

“I am a success.”

“I speak clearly.”

“I deliver a speech that is valuable to my audience.”

“I hear them give me a warm round of applause at the end of my talk.”

“I am confident.”

“I speak clearly.”

“I speak with positive energy.”

To effectively train your brain to beat stage fright, your affirmations all have to be positive and in the present tense. Don’t say: “I will give a good talk. I will hear the sound of applause at the end of my speech. I will be confident”. That’s all in the future. Whatever commands you give your brain, your brain will act on them. The effect is even more powerful if you give your brain a command in the present tense. So train your brain by saying affirmations in the present tense.

Also, keep things positive. Don’t tell yourself: “I’m not going to mess up”. A positive way of expressing this thought is: “I see myself doing well”.

Don’t say things in the negative because your brain will focus on what you don’t want to happen. Say your affirmations in a positive way and in the present tense. You can also record them on your phone and listen to them. Here are a few more:

“I like myself.”

“I am calm.”

“I am ready for this talk.”

“I deliver value to the audience.”

How many more can you think of? Do this exercise. Take a notebook or a piece of paper and write down as many short positive affirmations as you can. Aim for a hundred positive things that you see happening to you before, during and after the speech. Here are more suggestions:

“I do a great job.”

“I speak clearly.”

“I have the attention of the audience.”

“I engage my audience.”

“I smile at the audience.”

“I speak with a warm friendly voice.”

“I speak in an attractive manner.”

“I deliver my speech effortlessly.”

A wise man once said: “Don’t be surprised when you focus on negative things and then they happen to you because it’s like you produced a trailer for a horror movie.” So why don’t you produce a trailer for a movie that ends with success, with victory, with achievement?

Train your brain to say things that are positive and it will have a positive impact on you. It will make you calm, and when you are calm you’re less likely to suffer from stage fright. You’re more likely to deliver a talk that will be valuable to the audience. Because that’s what it’s all about. Public speaking is about what you deliver that is of value to your audience.

That’s the second of the STAGE tips on how to beat stage fright: T for Train Your Brain. The first (in last week’s piece) was S for Shift Your Focus. In next week’s piece, I will focus on the third STAGE tip: A for Achieving Calm.


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