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Karin’s Leadership Articles

To overcome stage fright, remember why you’re holding the mic

A moment of stagefright wisdom gained during a difficult time.

I was deeply worried that my Dad was right, there would be no way I could hold it together to sing at my Mom’s funeral. I envisioned myself as a weepy mess at the front of the church. But for me, singing is a prayer, and after the hundreds of concerts my parents attended to support me over the years, not singing felt wrong. I’m normally not a stage fright kind of girl. I always love a good microphone. But fear was showing up in all its glory, and I almost gave in.

Then I realized that this fear was a gift. I needed to be humbled by stage fright, to better serve my clients and students who ask me for advice on how to overcome theirs.

4 Ways to Overcome Stage Fright

Here’s what worked for me. I hope it can help you.

1.Remember WHY you have the mic

If you’ve got a mic in your hand, I’m going to assume you’ve got something important to offer. Remember that stage fright is about you, not your message. Fear is not humility. Connecting with your message and remembering your purpose takes your ego (and the fear that’s trying to protect it) out of the equation.

2. Find some scaffolding

My scaffoldiing came in the form of people. My first text was to my cousin Katie, a professional folk singer and one of the happiest people I know.  Now we had a duet. Mary is a rock star on piano, so I knew if we got into trouble she’d just keep playing.  When Al, who I hadn’t sung with since my wedding, showed up at the funeral home, we added one final touch to the scaffolding for the next morning–guitar.

For you the scaffolding may be a clever prop, slides that prompt you through the tough parts, or a podium to put a barrier between you and the audience. Find what will make you feel more secure.

3. Practice until it “gets into your body.”

Award winning speaker and coach, Patricia Fripp, advises speakers to practice a speech until it “gets into your body.” She rehearses on a treadmill, so I decided to take my song for a walk in the woods. I got a few strange looks when I stumbled upon a fellow hiker, but what the heck.

4. Visualize success

As corny as it sounds, that morning I spent some quiet time picturing myself in front of the familiar terrain of the church I grew up in. The stained glass, green carpet, and the harmony that needed to surface.

Need help with communication, leadership development, or a funeral singer (just kidding), give me a call 443-750-1249.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

16 Comments

  1. Lisa Hamaker

    Bravo Karin! Did you feel closer to your mom while singing?

    As usual I am inspired by your post on many level, some I cannot even put into words. “Remember that stage fright is about you, not your message” is really powerful. It helps me to remember that the message is the important part, I am just the conduit.

    I also realized why I like to stand up when practicing any speaking, and will add a walk in the woods. Yes, you probably got a strange look from your fellow hiker, and I am sure that person was inspired. I recently started singing along while exercising in my basement and find it a good release and helps me to find my core. There’s a reason humanity has sung throughout our history.

    Take care.

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Lisa, Thanks so much for your kind words. Yes, I felt very close to my mom when singing, there was an amazing energy that seemed to be coming from somewhere divine. Namaste.

      Reply
  2. Terri Klass

    This presentation about your mom was so emotional, so that may have contributed to your fears. You did a beautiful tribute to her!

    When I was a new presenter a mentor once shared with me a visual that I still use today. She said that we all have butterflies before a presentation. The key is to get the butterflies from flitting around to flying in formation. I think of that every time I go in front of a group and it truly centers me.

    I also love your idea that fear is a gift! And yes, to speak well we need to practice until we truly own the presentation.

    Sending light and love Karin.

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, Love that visual. I’m going to share that with my students. Namaste.

      Reply
  3. Robert Kennedy III

    Ahhhh another great talent. Love it and love that you shared it! Another way that you and I are connected :-).

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Robert, Oh my… maybe we have a duet in our future 😉

      Reply
  4. Wilma Slenders

    Karin, you’ve provided some excellent tips! Thank-you!

    I also rehearse my speeches and presentations while walking outside (also some strange looks) and on the treadmill (really strange looks when I do that in a fitness centre!).

    The most important message for me, is “If you’ve got a mic in your hand, I’m going to assume you’ve got something important to offer.” It’s a good reminder.

    Reply
  5. LaRae Quy

    What an incredible tribute to your mother, Karin! I know she heard it and was touched by your heart and voice.

    Love that tip about practicing on a treadmill…I know what it feels like to finally “own” a talk and have it settle into your body. You don’t need notes or reminders…you just “go with the flow.”

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much, Larae. When we feel it in our body we can relax and let more of personality shine through.

      Reply
  6. Steve Borek

    Nice job Karin. Must have been a special moment. What did you learn from the process?

    Repetition is key. That’s what I did when I danced in front of hundreds for charity. Those dance moves where in my bones.

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much, Larae. When we feel it in our body we can relax and let more of personality shine through.

      Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      What did I learn? Hmmmm…. go for it. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. When Al walked into the funeral home, I didn’t even know for sure if he was planning to attend the service, and it was 9pm the night before. But Al is a quick study. He brought a banjo and a guitar, and we put it together 30 minutes before the service.

      Another magical moment was at the luncheon when I introduced Al, to my Dad’s friend of over 40 years who plays simiilar music, got the minister to find me some extra mics, and they had the reception hall all stomping their feet and singing along at the luncheon.

      Lesson learned, ask. Match make. Sing along.

      Reply
  7. Alli Polin

    What a beautiful gift to share in honor of your Mom and with your family and friends. I agree with the “in the body.” I’ve acted for years and most of the time, before the curtain goes up I can’t remember one line… but it’s all there… flowing… a part of me, not lines that I learned by rote. When you embody the presentation, the song or lines, you own them and can share them in a way that truly connects.

    You are in my thoughts, Karin.

    ~ Alli

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Alli, Thanks so much. I found the “in the body” thing works for acting as well 😉

      Reply
  8. Chery Gegelman

    Karin,

    Your tribute to your mother was amazing – even though I only saw 30 seconds of it. From across the world the strength and love and peace you’ve reflected in this time is just as amazing AND inspiring. And the way that you’ve shared your story and turned it into another powerful leadership lesson is a treasured gift.

    Thank you for sharing part of your mom and your journey with us. Sending you warm thoughts, virtual hugs and prayers.

    Chery

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Chery,
      Thanks so much. I appreciate all your support.

      Reply

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