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Conquering the Fear: Be Pac-Man…!

January 5, 2014

PacmanHere’s some some good news and bad news.  First the bad: I’ve been speaking for 23 and a half years and the fear is still there, not very different from what it was all those years ago.  It never disappears.

Now the good: being nervous is good for speaking, it builds adrenaline and helps you sharpen up your act.  You just need to control it and work around it.

There are three ways you can conquer that fear.  Practising, Attracting and Chilling.  That’s P.A.C.  You too can be Pac-Man.  Like Pac-Man, you can chew up your fear, one pac-dot at a time.

First, practising.  There is no substitute for rehearsal.  Think of stand-up comics – very little is impromptu, virtually every line is scripted and rehearsed a hundred times.  You need not do the same.  There is no need to remember every word – the odd stutter or stumble makes a speech seem more authentic.  But it is best to memorise your opening – that’ll help calm your nerves as you get going.  Practice makes perfect, they say.  In the words of Woody Allen: “the reason I became such a good lover is that I practiced; a lot; on my own”.

Second, attracting.  No, you don’t have to look like Angelina or Brad.  But it does help to smile.  If you smile, you attract the audience onto your side.  And their encouragement will make you feel more wanted, less nervous.  Think on George Elliott: “wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles”.

Finally, chilling. Don’t rush your speech.  Enjoy being on stage.  Relax, take your time, build in plenty of pauses – so if you do forget your lines, the pause will seem natural and once the lines come back you can pick up where you left off without the audience being any the wiser.  As Mark Twain said: “the right word might be effective, but no word was ever as effective… [PAUSE] as a pause”.

In summary, we all feel the fear, we all get nervous.  But nerves are good.  And you can control them by thinking of Pac-Man – by practicing, attracting and chilling.  Then, as has been said elsewhere, you can embrace those butterflies and make them fly in formation.


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