A Frightening Experience
January 21st, 2002
Stage fright is an absolutely common condition, and if you
dont suffer it on a regular basis, you may at some time
in your broadcasting career find that your words fail you,
your blood pressure increases, your heart beats faster, and
you find that you are struggling to just get words out - and
often feel that you are sounding like a lunatic.
First off, everyone suffers it at some time or other, so
be easy on yourself. Remember, even if you totally screw up
on your story, it is only one of 20-30 in your news cast,
on only one cast of the day, only one day of the week, at
only one station in one market in the country (unless you
are working for a network!).
Second, the spiraling nature of this kind of anxiety make
it particularly hard to stop. You hear your voice, sounding
stupid. That makes you more tense. That blocks your ability
to think clearly. Your words and voice come out even more
strangled. That makes you feel more stupid, more tense, and
on and on it goes.
On the other hand, by comparison, when you are doing well,
your voice sounds good, you feel confident, you know what
you are talking about, which makes your voice sound good,
While there are no quick fixes for this kind of awful, painful
experience there are a number of observations which might
1. While you cant wish your stage fright away, you
can interrupt it, physically, at least. Simply by taking in
your breath - a big healthy one - and as you release it, let
your body go limp. Each succeeding breath, relax your body
even more. After two or three breaths, you should be as limber
as an old rag.
2. Make sure you know your story inside and out, not only
the copy, but the subtext, meaning, and context in which it
is told. The fear mostly comes from the unknown, and the more
you take charge, the more your own confidence will increase.
3. When you screw up on a story, take that story and work
on it well after the fact, when the smoke has cleared. At
that point, it is impossible to screw the story up more, since
youve already done that. Use this low pressure, low
risk setting to gain valuable insight and experience.
4. While there are short term fixes that MAY help, in general,
familiarity is what ultimately triumphs over stage fright.
If you are tense on your first ten stories, I assure you,
by your thousandth, or ten-thousandth story, it will be old
hand to you. In fact, after much experience, the harder thing
is to capture some of the freshness and urgency of those early
5. Dont underestimate the effects of relaxation exercises,
such as you might find in Yoga or a meditation class. Over
a long period, they can give you an inner tranquility and
sense of perspective that will inform your stories with a
confidence and enthusiasm that would otherwise be missing.
And, of course, keep breathing!