Beating Stage Fright

Stage fright, so horrible. The moment you step on stage it feels like being thrown in the lion’s den. All that responsibility on your shoulders. 100 or 1,000 people all ready to judge you. What did I do, I shouldn’t be here, it’s going to be a failure. Then it starts.

How many of you have gone through this traumatic experience considering it a step you needed to take towards what you want to achieve, yet an unwelcome one. Being on stage is just for the few who have it in their blood, you thought.

In this post we are going to demolish that myth, and show you not only techniques to do better on stage, but a completely different mental approach to talking on stage which will change you forever and you won’t need any more ‘techniques’ because you won’t need to pretend it’s all right. It will just feel all right being there. It will be all right.

The Nature of Fear

Fear is a powerful defence mechanism that we developed during thousands of years out in the jungle, where not being alert could cost your life. We learned 2 types of fear.

One is the fright of being confronted by an immediate danger, be it an animal or an enemy. This fright stimulates our limbic Freeze, Fight or Flight response. Pretty useful against the danger of becoming that tiger’s dinner. But also to avoid crossing the street in front of a moving truck.

The other is the fear of possible unexpected dangerous encounters. In a world disseminated with life or death threats, this mechanism was also rather useful to avoid getting in potentially lethal situations. This involves imagining threatening scenarios in our mind and reacting to these.

Our trouble today, 10 thousand years later, is that we keep doing it even if our environment is substantially safer than it used to be. This is the fear that stops us from doing. We are afraid of imagined consequences, we are afraid of being attacked, we are afraid of unexpected results.

Note how all this stuff is in our mind. Sure, you say, it might happen. But that’s not the point. The fear you feel is a response to a thought in your mind. Neither is real. Not the thought, not the fear. You’ve heard it a million times, ‘it’s all in your head.’

What happen when you see it. Or at least you remain open to the possibility?

Your Mission Matters

Let’s leave that door open and let’s focus on your mission. You are a changemaker, an impact leader with a mission to change the world for the better. That is your calling in life. That is what you set off to do. I’d argue that your mission comes directly from your heart, your inner wisdom (if you don’t feel that’s you, we should talk.)

Your mission involves people, many people. You want to share your mission with the world so that your impact can multiply. You can share your mission in many ways. Social media, a great website, advertising. But you are not just a brand selling goods. You are much more than that. You want to move people to action.

That stuff is certainly useful, however, do you know what humans relate the most to?

Other humans.

Internet has created an easy way to hide from people while talking to them. It works, to an extent. Imagine instead the power of connecting directly among humans. Talking to each other and telling stories, live. For a changemaker this is essential, and it should not be scary. It really can’t be scary. Should you and I meet, would you tell me your story, your mission? Or would you feel shy and just gloss over it?

The Audience is Your Ally

When you talked to me, you were so excited about your mission. I was there to listen and to learn about it. I was not there to judge you.

An audience is just 1,000 people like me, who came to the venue to hear what you have to tell them. To get inspired by your powerful mission. If it was just to do some binge watching, they would be on Netflix, much less hassle than going to an event.

Imagine. 1,000 people at a time, all of them interested in what you have to tell them. Curious about your mission. Curious about the impact you want to have on the world. You are an extraordinary person doing extraordinary things. They hope that some of your greatness will rub on them for listening. And you do too. You want to inspire them to their greatness in helping you in your mission.

It’s a Conversation

Like you had a conversation with me and you told me about your mission, do the same with your audience. Sure they can’t respond as in a normal 2-way conversation. However they do respond, by listening intently, clapping, holding their breaths.

In the first TEDx that I organised, Joshua Spodek was on screen delivering his talk. As a deeply authentic sustainability advocate, he did not want to fly from NY to the UK and produce a lot of CO2 to deliver his talk, so we presented it recorded on screen. Even though it was ‘just a video’ the audience got captivated by his talk. Close to the end Josh wanted to play with the audience.

He said: “repeat after me: never call doof food”

That was the core message of his talk.

I was astonished at how almost all the audience did repeat the tagline after him. The audience was so captivated that they engaged with it and responded, even if he was just on video!

So remember, the audience is there for you, and is eager to engage with you. It IS a conversation.

Not Just By Heart

Another fear is, what if I go blank? It might happen, but there’s no need to be scared of that. As we said, the audience is there for you, they want to hear your message and they will support you if you need it.

Another TEDx speaker I worked with, had such a moment. Again, I was impressed by the reaction of the audience. Encouraging smiles appeared on many faces. They were communicating with the speaker in a silent conversation. “We know you can go ahead” they were saying.

And besides the audience support, how did the speaker react?

She remembered my advice. Recentre and remember that it’s your talk. You crafted it. It came directly from your heart. Then we cleaned it up and turned a rough stone into a brilliant. It’s your brilliant. You learned it by heart, rehearsed and rehearsed till it was ready. And after knowing it BY heart, I reminded you where it came from.

Truth is, not only by heart, you know your talk FROM your heart. It’s in there. It’s not just a pile of words that you memorised. It is one precious thing that comes directly from your heart. When you are lost, go and look for it.

And so she did. In a short matter of time her eyes lit up and she was back on track, stronger than ever.

What Else Are You Scared Of On Stage?

You have the audience with you, your diamond inside, your passion to share it. What else would scare you? We are incredibly creative beings and I am sure you will think of another thousand reasons why you should be scared. But you should not.

What if I trip on stage? Well, you just stand up again. Or you decide to continue delivering sitting on the floor. Besides, you are afraid of tripping over because you think you won’t be in control. Truth is, when you speak from your heart, to people who love listening, about a subject you love, you are everything but out of control. I’d bet you won’t trip. And if you do, it will make you even more human.

What-if. The worst question. That what-if is all in your head. And we came full circle.


As I mentioned in the beginning, there are not many techniques that I would suggest to ‘force’ yourself to be different from what you are. Or to pretend that you are different. As long as you remember what I told you, you’ll be fine. You don’t need to pretend it’s all right. It just feels all right being there. It is all right.

The only technique that I would suggest is for when you forget even my advice and you feel like a rabbit in the headlights. That is…


Our fears are activated in a part of the brain associated with instinctive reactions. Our calm and centred self is activated in a completely different region of the brain. Which is the same part activated by our sensorial perceptions. If you know this you can do magic.

To recentre, you just need to focus for few seconds on a physical sensation. Just a few seconds completely absorbed in just that sensation. That could be anything. Many suggest to focus on you breath, the in and out of air. Or your chest and belly moving with your breath. Here’s a few others sensations that you can try

  • the sensation under your feet, pressing on the floor and supporting your weight
  • your hand touching an object
  • the ridges on you thumb and index while gently rubbing them together
  • the details of a scene or a specific object that you are looking at
  • a distant noise, or a close noise
  • your tongue pressing behind your teeth

Any sensation will do. Just be there with your sensation,100% of your attention on that. Let the world outside of that sensation disappear for a moment.

Like by magic, your heartbeat will slow down, the fear will give room to your inner deep awareness that you know your stuff, and you’ll be fresh as new.


Speaking on stage is not that scary experience feared by many. It’s a great opportunity to be yourself, talk about your passion, with people who like you. Fear tries to protect you from nonexistent threats. And in the process stops you from being yourself and achieving your mission.

We learned how fear works and then we explored why your mission matters, how your talk comes straight from your heart and why people are there to learn from you not to judge you. Finally we learned one single technique to help you recentre when the world seems to be falling apart.

Thank you for reading. I hope this post was useful and will help you improve your talks. Because I want you to multiply your impact and make a significant dent to the world for the better. You can do it by moving audiences to action.

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To the next time, keep inspiring people to action!

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