Sarah Gershman, President, Green Room Speakers --
I still wonder why performance triggers the flight or fight response - and believe that this may have something to do with a negative performance experience as a child - which left the child feeling somehow "attacked" so that every time after that when he/she is asked to speak - the "attack" feeling returns.
Sarah, you asked above, "Why would fight or flight kick in?" That’s the key question. I've helped over 12,000 eliminate stage fright, and I've never witnessed fight or flight kick in with any of them. Fight or flight kicks in when a person is in danger and only has two choices. Stage fright can be eliminated by avoiding the circumstances where fight or flight would kick in.
Eliminating stage fright is actually a very easy process -- once you understand that it is a process. The simple truth is that fear comes when we try anything new. If we have what we perceive to be a failure the first time, nervousness increases the next time. Confidence in the skill is developed as the person has a series of successes along the way.
A better analogy is learning to drive a car. The best way to gain confidence driving is to start in a parking lot with a parent or coach, and once you master the basic, go out onto the street and just do right-hand turns. Once you master that, make a few left-hand turns, and eventually make your way to the freeway. Every time you try something new in the car, you’ll feel nervous doing it until you have a few successes. After a few successes, though, each of the component parts becomes part of the sub-conscious – you’d think about what you are doing when you drive a car now. Most people learn public speaking by performing in a big speech -- which is nuts. That would be like putting a 15 year-old into a car on the back of one of those car carriers you see at auto dealerships, getting the speed up to 60 MPH on the freeway, dropping the ramp down and rolling the car off the back. The kid in the car would have sheer terror, and just before the ramp is dropped down, the “flight” part of the fight or flight will kick in.
The bottom-line is that if you want to eliminate your public speaking fear, get a good coach and master the basics. Your fear will go away quickly.
Doug Staneart, America’s Fearless Presentations Coach