• NEWEST PROGRAM AND HANDBOOK


    Improve your speech for non-native English speakers. Click here to learn more.

  • LATEST BOOK:

    Kindle and paperback available on Amazon.  

    Learn to see yourself as others do and become magnetic, magnanimous, and memorable! Savvy advice, specific examples, and tactical exercises to develop your presence—in months, not years.

  • FIRST BOOK:

    Winner in the Business-Motivational category for 2012

    Book Cover Art

    AN AMAZON BESTSELLER

    "Great graduation present!"

    Inspired to extend a helping hand to ambitious women working in corporate America, a veteran executive offers honest, practical, slightly irreverent advice about navigating companies that are run and populated predominately by men: how to interpret their sometimes surprising behavior, avoid common mistakes, flourish with the good guys, deal with the bad guys, and nurture a wonderful, satisfying career in a non-traditional role.

  • Audiobook

    Audiobook Icon Audiobook now available at audible.com! Click here
  • Links to Booksellers:

    Paperback, Kindle and Audio versions available here on Amazon.

    Paperback and ePub version available here at Powells.

    Audio version available here at audible.com.

    Paperback and Nook versions available here at Barnes & Noble.

    Paperback version available here at Alibris.

    Paperback and ePub versions available here at BookDepository.com (free shipping worldwide).

    ePub version available here on diesel-ebooks.

    ePub version available here on eBookMall.

  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    The Spirit of the Discreet Guide
    FIRST PRINCIPLES
    The Facts of Life
    In and Out of the Men’s Room
    Tuning In and Dropping Out
    Hold It Right There, Lady
    Skeptical Spectacles and a Critical-Thinking Cap
    YOUR SISTAS AND YOU
    Whose Girl Are You?
    Taking Care
    You’re Different, and That’s Only Mostly Bad
    Impressions and the Real Thing
    Sistas
    EARLY MANEUVERS
    School Days
    Your First Company
    The Cubette
    NAVIGATION TIPS
    Guiding Lights
    The Big C’s: Competition, Challenge, and Conflict
    DANGER—FALLING COCONUTS
    Sit Down and Shut Up
    How Do You Get Anything Done?
    He Doesn’t Think You’re Very Smart
    But Don’t Be Dumb
    TOUCHY SUBJECTS
    After Hours
    One-on-One: Danger Zones
    Sex At Work
    GUYS, GUYS, GUYS
    The Big Guy
    The Good Guys
    International Guys
    The Messed-Up Ones
    Bad Guys
    Super Bad Guys
    YOU’RE A BIG GIRL NOW
    Managing—Between a Rock and a Hard Place
    Work—Why You’re Paid
    THE EXECUTIVE WOMAN’S DILEMMA
    What? I Can’t Hear You
    Courage
    Common Sense
    A Powerful Combination
    THE PRIDE OF THE LIONESS
    Power and Risk
    Leadership
    THE DIAMOND

Practical Solutions to Stage Fright

Scientifically, your biochemical responses related to performance anxiety are quite interesting. Fright triggers a fight or flight reaction that sets off a chain of hormonal changes in your body, resulting in heart palpitations, butterflies in your stomach, shallow breathing, and a giant surge of adrenaline. These combine to give you sweaty palms, shaking knees, and a wobbly voice. Scary stuff indeed.

I can curiously observe the onset of these physical manifestations in my own body in the moments preceding my performance. I can track the progression of fear as it wends its way through my body, leaving behind the telltale quakes and shakes. As an observer, I am still impressed by the powerful emotions that sweep through me. I try to embrace them and tell myself at least I’m not dead yet.

Many of my clients suffer from stage fright, and I offer special instruction to deal with this common yet unpredictable issue. I find that it’s not realistic to hope to eliminate stage fright; the best we can accomplish in a short period of time is to manage it. As long as it doesn’t keep you from performing, you will get better and, over time, it will become less of a hindrance.

Physically, you can take action to offset some of the symptoms of stage fright. Take deep long breaths to counteract the panicked short breaths triggered by the fight or flight response. If you are frozen in fear, move your body to relax tense muscles and dissipate energy. Loosening jaw muscles will help you prepare to speak with a loud, firm voice. Steeling your nerves can tighten resolve and set aside thoughts of flight.
Alternatively, Barry Green wrote in The Inner Game of Music that, as an experiment, he consciously tries to exaggerate the physical reactions to stage fright, to see if he can make his heart pump even faster or force his palms to perspire a little more. It helps him put the fear in perspective and calm down.

Instead of trying to get rid of adrenaline, consider it an aid to a better performance. Adrenaline will give you energy and make you more lively. Your goal is to learn how to use it for positive purposes; and with experience and an accepting attitude, you will. When your heart starts to pump and you begin to perspire, say to yourself, Well, hello Adrenaline, my old friend. Welcome.

Amy Cuddy, a professor at Harvard, conducted a study in which participants made their bodies bigger before a performance by stretching, spreading out their arms and legs, standing tall, and raising their arms above their heads. Compared to participants who did not engage in such gymnastics, their levels of testosterone (a hormone related to aggression) were significantly higher, and their levels of cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone,” were significantly lower. We haven’t proven that testosterone makes you perform better in the corporate world, but I wouldn’t mind walking onto the stage with a little extra sauce. Consider spending two minutes before a performance practicing such power poses, to make yourself feel more powerful and less worried.

Stage fright can be unpredictable, reappearing at times when we don’t expect it, in venues we thought we were comfortable in, or in front of audiences we know and like. So be it. Its reappearance won’t throw us off our path because we are familiar with it, and we know how to handle it. While we may think we would prefer to be completely at ease and relaxed in front of an audience, it may not be in our best interest. An overly confident speaker may come off as arrogant, forgetting his audience is paying him great respect and he should return the love with a humble performance.

Remember that the members of your audience want you to succeed. They don’t want to have to cope with your failure, so they are on your side. Think of them as partners and copilots in the experience.

Here are some mental and physical tricks you can use to manage stage fright:
Work Out
Let go
Take deep breaths
Eat a healthy snack
What’s the worst that can happen?
Listen to your message
Make eye contact
Work Out 🙂
Body movement
Drink water
Chat with audience members beforehand
Get a good night’s sleep
Practice acceptance
Observe physical symptoms
Schedule a postevent celebration
A hammering heart can be interesting.
Work Out
Be prepared
Use a mobile microphone, not a handheld one
Focus on the audience’s needs
Concentrate on the job at hand
Drink a cup of tea
Yawn Think about your two most important points
Visualize being congratulated for a great speech
Relax your body
Smile
Consider how quickly this will pass
Focus on enjoying the experience
Stand tall / make yourself big
Stretch
Do jaw-loosening exercises
Make big gestures
Get the audience to engage early

  • Sign up for The Pergola, a free bi-monthly digital magazine

  • Archived Issues

    Click here for the "Uncommon Courtesy" Issue - July 2017.

    Click here for the "Humor" Issue - May 2017.

    Click here for the "Stage Fright" Issue - Mar 2017.

    Click here for the "Women's March" Issue - Jan 2017.

    Click here for the "Executive Presence" Issue - Nov 2016.

    Click here for the "New Opportunity, i.e., Looking for Work" Issue - Sep 2016.

    Click here for the "Business Travel" Issue - July 2016.

    Click here for the "Bully" Issue - May 2016.

    Click here for the "Men, Women, and Money" Issue - March 2016.

    Click here for the "Boss" Issue - January 2016.

    Click here for the November 2015 Apology Edition.

    Click here for the September 2015 Single Mother Edition.

    Click here for the July 2015 Negotiation Edition.

    Click here for the May 2015 Birthday Edition.

    Click here for the Mar 2015 First Edition.

  • Invest in Yourself! Executive Presence

    Customized one-on-one consulting program to enhance your presence, both professionally and personally. Available from anywhere. Starts anytime. Ten 90-minute individualized sessions. Private and confidential. More info
  • Straight Talk Logo
  • Trailer for Exceptional Presence Program

  • Experts About the Presence of Others

  • JENNIFER K. CRITTENDEN
  • Latest Tweets

    DiscreetGuide
  • About the Author

    Raised on a farm in southern Indiana by an idealistic professor and a feminist homemaker, and after language and film studies in Europe, Jennifer was an unlikely candidate to graduate from a leading business school and enter corporate America. To her surprise, she excelled in her new world and spent the next twenty years building a scintillating career, rising from Financial Analyst to Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Secretary, working for big pharma and biotech companies in the US, Europe, and the UK.

    Read her LinkedIn profile.

  • Meta