If you have stage fright, then you have something in common with some very famous people.
Carly Simon fainted on stage.
Barbra Streisand stopped performing live for 26 years.
Adele projectile vomited on someone.
And you would have something in common with me, too. When I'm on a stage, my hands and knees shake.
But you wouldn't know from watching me and professional performers that we're sick with anxiety.
Stage Fright Is A Problem Only If It Beats You
Stage fright isn't the problem. The problem is when you let it stop you from delivering your message.
You wonder how you'll give a good presentation when you can barely remember your name. You imagine that if you embarrassed yourself, forgot what you were going to say, or got booed then you would die.
But let me tell you from experience: Mistakes, mishaps, and misfortunes onstage will not kill you.
Take it from an expert, Michael Port, whom I interviewed recently about his new book, "Steal the Show: How to Guarantee a Standing Ovation for All the Performances of Your Life."
In it, Port shares the performance secrets of professional actors like himself, Steve Carell, and Tina Fey--and how we, non-actors, can apply them in the high-stakes "performances" of our lives.
If stage fright has been keeping you from playing a bigger game or worse, from making a positive impact in the lives of people you could have helped, then read on.
Here's How to Silence the Voices of Judgment and Criticism
1. Get comfortable with the discomfort.
Stage fright happens. Expect it, anticipate it, and prepare for it. Growth always entails discomfort. You need to go through the awkwardness to get better.
Even though Adele threw up before performing at the 2011 Grammy Awards, she sang live again at the 85th Academy Awards in 2013 (and nailed it). She reportedly used hypnotherapy and Qi Gong breathing exercises to ease her anxiety.
Explore what tactics will help you stay calm before your next big presentation. Then relax. "The worst thing that could happen is that you're terrible," Carell said in an interview, "And you learn from that."
2. Focus on getting results, not on getting approval.
Keep your goal clear in your mind. Is it to inform, educate, or convince? Or is it to motivate, uplift, and inspire? Remember, you're doing it for results, not to win the audience's approval.
What helps me is focusing on the outcomes I'm going to help the audience achieve.
Even for Carell, acting isn't about him but about getting the desired response from the audience. He says, "I always feel so pretentious talking about comedy and deconstructing it. It always feels somehow self-centred.... A lot of it is just trying stuff, and having the freedom to attempt something and fail."
So it's not about you; it's about the audience.
3. Create a presentation that doesn't have any holes to poke.
Make your presentation airtight, rock solid, and impossible to poke holes into. Support your points with evidence. "Make a sound case for your ideas," Port says.
And leave room for your audience's perspectives. Avoid absolutes like "always," "everyone," and "everything."
When you speak in absolutes, somebody may come up with one exception. So use qualifiers like "almost everyone," "most of the time," and "it appears...."
When your arguments are solid, you'll be more confident.
Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It...
... is to get out there and speak in public as often as you can. The more you do, the better you'll get.
In "The Late Show with David Letterman," Carell read a review he'd kept since 1997, in which the critic said his performance was more horrifying than standing "in a freezer full of dead people at the morgue."
But Carell had the last laugh; he was nominated for Best Performance for an Actor in a Leading Role in the 2015 Academy Awards.
So get onstage, make mistakes, and learn.