I’ve posted a few times about my fear of public speaking so agreeing to read from my teenage diary at Oh Dear Diary, as part of the Birmingham Comedy Festival, involved yet another stomach-churning, leap of courage.
But I’ve realised something in the process of deciding to be a more active speaker, something that helps me get through the trial of standing up in front of a crowd. And it is this: as long as I have a reason to stand up there on stage, the nerves will retreat; as long as there is a higher purpose I can focus on, this distracts me from thinking about myself and my anxieties.
Mostly this has involved focusing outside of myself and on why the audience is there. In a workshop training scenario, for example, all the trainees want to do is learn. At Oh Dear Diary, all people wanted to do was have a laugh. No need for me to worry about looking like a fool because the point was to look like a fool – through the lens of my teenage stalker self chasing a crush around South Birmingham and logging his every item of clothing and time of appearance.
So having a higher purpose is the trick.
Well, that and being hugely over-prepared.
And employing some of Helga Henry’s tips for physically calming down.
Getting up on stage is probably not something I’ll ever look forward to, and my stress levels are generally a bit higher in the run-up, but at least it’s no longer crippling. And I’m even getting to the stage of playing with the performance, rather than focusing on functional delivery.
The video above has been created by Emma Wright, founder of the inaugural Oh Dear Diary event, at Cherry Reds, Birmingham, on 9 October 2014. It also goes to show how sympathetic an audience is in wanting you to do well. Believe me, no one was more amazed (and relieved) than me to hear people laughing.