tage fright, a phenomenon common in people of all age, is usually considered the outcome of lack of confidence. But it has got little to do with whether a person is confident or not.
To me, whoever says, “I don’t suffer from stage fright,” is telling a plain lie. I have been training people from varied culture and ethnicity across multiple age groups for a while now. Yet even today, when I face an unfamiliar audience, my legs quaver and I feel frozen.
It takes me time to get accustomed to the fact that, over the next few minutes, I am going to be judged by each one present there in the audience.
I am often asked questions such as: “How do you manage to present yourself so well in front of familiar as well as a stranger audience?” “Don’t you feel nervous?” “Aren’t you scared of their questions or response?” “What would you do if you are unable to answer a query?”
I simply smile and answer ~ “I am used to this by now!” Although, I sometimes get a lump in my throat when I realise that many of my trainees have work experience higher my age and that, I will have to train them on skills they have been practising throughout their career. They are experts in their own right.
Then, I remind myself that I have been assigned to do this because I deserve it. I tell myself that the nervousness is momentary and, I cannot allow this to inflict a lasting or long-term damage to my career.
I must not let my audience see fear in my eyes and take me for granted. I should, rather, focus on performance than worry about reactions or perceptions that are to come later.
I try making myself comfortable first by imagining that I am a learner and that, even if I make mistakes, I will be able to grow from those. All I need to do is keep my current state of mind a secret from my audience.
And the moment I smile with confidence, half of my audience is convinced into listening to me. My fear then vanishes away and, all I am left with is, a motive to communicate in the most effective way possible.
I remind myself time and again that I may not be able to effectively communicate with everyone every time I train, and there is nothing wrong about it. Only I must ensure that my fear is not a reason for this, for, fear is merely a challenge thrown up by our brain.
If we do not fight fear, it will get the better of us.
(Chetna Pareek is a Bengaluru-based life skills trainer at TATA Strive, a CSR initiative by TATA Group.)