When I was a kid, one of my very favorite cartoons was Scooby Doo. A giant dog that is scared of everything … pretty funny. Interestingly, now I have a Scooby Doo of my own. She too is a Great Dane, afraid of everything, but very good-hearted.
I learned some great lessons about overcoming stage fright from Scooby Doo (not so true with my own dog). These days I rarely experience stage fright. I can’t be sure it was from the lessons on overcoming stage fright I learned early in my life from Scooby Doo, but regardless I think they still apply.
Lesson #1: It’s not about you
In each adventure, at some point, Scooby had to be brave to help his humans. Doing the right thing for the right reason is a strong incentive. When we are presenting we have to focus on the importance of sharing our message, lesson or information with our audience. When we stop focusing on ourselves, but instead focus on the value we want to provide, much of the fear dissipates.
Lesson #2: Rewards are good
In every episode at some point Scooby had to be bribed with some Scooby snacks. Now I am not assuming that a dog treat is going to work for you, but don’t hesitate to “reward” yourself for a job well-done. Positive reinforcement is a great way to effectively modify behavior; if you reward yourself with something you truly love each time you successfully get on stage, you will find that it will get easier.
Lesson #3: Friends help
Scooby’s best friend is Shaggy, who is also afraid of most things and easily enticed by Scooby snacks (yuck). Together they can accomplish most anything. There is strength in numbers and knowing there is a friend who has got your back makes a HUGE difference. It is not always possible to have a friend at an event with you, but you can have one on stand-by. Even if it is a quick phone call before presenting, having someone you trust who cares about you providing some affirmations can make a world of difference. And if calling just isn’t possible, try recording their voice saying a phrase or two that really helps your confidence and play it back. You will be surprised by the results.
Lesson #4: It is just an illusion
Every episode the Mystery Machine gang investigated what they thought was a ghost, zombie or some other dark creature. And in every episode, it always turned out to just be a person in disguise. Although getting up on stage can be amazingly unnerving, it is extremely rare that the audience will be anything but polite, attentive and – at worst – passive. Things will probably not go perfectly during your presentation, but nobody really expects perfection so that is not a problem. Just remember: they already admire you because you were brave enough to be up in front in the first place.
Lesson #5: If Scooby can, so can you
Sure, Scooby Doo is a talking dog and a cartoon character, nothing like real life; but the lessons still apply. Each week Scooby would have to take on a new mystery despite his overriding fears, and he always braved it. And that is the ultimate lesson: If it is really worth doing, if your message is needed or important, you just have to keep working at over coming your stage fright. It may never go away, but with time, appropriate focus, support of friends and a few rewards you will know the benefits outweigh the fear.
What tools have worked for you in overcoming your stage fright?