How can I turn stage fright into stage presence?

A couple of weeks ago I went to see Nick Cave in Rock Werchter, which took place in Belgium, and I’m telling you: the guy can pull of a show! How can you be an extraordinary musician and a genius at the same time? I could feel the music and his stage presence in my bones and when I looked around I noticed thousands of euphoric people dancing in extase.

How can you lift up a crowd like that? Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about giving a great rock-band performance, but I guess it has something to do with being “present” in the moment when you are on stage. And that is a thing I can tell you something about, because I just read the book “Presence” of Amy Cuddy. You probably remember her: the girl with the wonder woman pose, giving one of the most popular TED talks ever.


So how can you improve your stage presence during your next presentation, meeting or job interview?

TOP 7 Habits to improve your stage presence

Don’t just practice the content of your talk, practice “being you”.

Most people know exactly what they want to say during their next meeting, speech or presentation. But when they start, they say it in a very static, almost clinical way. And even if your message is “on point”, if your audience doesn’t feel authenticity, they will stop listening. So how can you come across as authentic? Well, first think about your personality: what are 3 qualities of your “best self”? Think about these qualities right before your performance and you will be able to show a more authentic self on stage!

Don’t try to calm down, feel the energy!

If you are not a monk, you won’t be able to influence your emotions a lot. It takes many years of hard practice. It’s very hard to go from a stressed state of mind, to a calm state. But the last thing you want to do when feeling stressed, is telling yourself that you need to calm down. Never make that mistake! It will ruin your presentation. Instead, next time you feel the stress raging through your body, feel the energy, and tell yourself: this is my body feeling energized, enthusiastic and ready to rock this presentation! (If you went to have a more positive perspective on the stress you experience, read the book “The upside of stress” of Kelly McGonical.)

Expand your body.

When you expand your body, your cortisol-levels go down (= stress hormone) and testosterone levels go up. (Click here to find out more about hormones and stress). You don’t have to power pose to achieve this effect. Just stand up straight and make sure your weight is on both your feet. Make your body as large as possible without looking like a (insert expletive), and use as much physical space in the room as possible. Only use power posing when you are faced with a stress-full situation, not during an event. (Just watch this and you will understand why).

Slow down.

People who are perceived as less powerful, walk and talk faster. So slooooooooow down and don’t make that mistake!

Avoid the “I-hunch”.

Don’t check your mails or phone right before you have to do a presentation, negotiate a deal or before a job interview. The “I-hunch” (= the position you see almost all people in while they are waiting: checking their phone) will make you feel less powerful to perform. Nice to know: the smaller the screen, the bigger the effect. So if you have to check you mails right before an important event, do it on your laptop instead of your phone.

Don’t focus on you, focus on the content.

A lot of people struggle with the spotlight-effect: we tend to te believe that the world evolves around us. People tend to think that everybody is looking at us and judging every move we make. But reality is that most people are busy themselves. And even if they watch you give a talk, they are mostly focusing on the content, what you are saying, not you. So stay “in the moment”, and think of the content of your presentation. What is the message you want to bring across? What is the emotion you want to provoke? Your performance will be much better when you don’t focus on yourself, but focus on them.

Don’t force your body to do specific gestures.

When it comes to stage presence and body language, there are so many “rules” to follow that it can paralyze you during an important event. Do I have to mirror the other’s body language? Do I have to laugh a lot? Should I make more eye-contact? It can drive us crazy if we think about it too much. The refreshing idea that Amy describes in her book, is that you just need to make sure that your body and your mind are “in sync”. People don’t mind if you are a bit nervous. You should be if you care! Your audience wants to see you talk about something you believe in.

They key to being present is relaxation. The more you are “in the moment”, the better your performance and stage presence will be. Nick Cave wasn’t thinking about anything else but his magic. He performed “in the moment” and 88000 people were sucked into his moment as well.

So next time, don’t overthink your performance, just be your “present self”.

Good luck!

Anneleen – Content Manager at CUTESolutions

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