You want to start a podcast. Maybe you've even done a few episodes already. But one thing keeps bothering you.
Yes, it's one of the commonest phobias or hang-ups in the entire world – public speaking!
What makes it worse for some people is the self-confessed absurdity of the situation. “I mean, there's nobody else here except for me and my microphone! What am I so worried about? It's so silly!”
You're not alone and you know it, but that doesn't help when the Record light flashes away, demanding you speak fluidly and coherently. Oh, the pressure!
So what are we afraid of?
Public speaking is undoubtedly one of the most common phobias, and has been known to cause panic attacks. It's also an easy enough thing to avoid for most of your life, barring the odd High School oral presentation or giving a speech at a wedding.
It may surprise you that some people will happily sing Karaoke in a crowded bar, but the thought of giving a presentation to a small group of peers terrifies the life out of them.
How come they can sing but not talk?
I suspect a lot of it is to do with practice – getting past that initial stage of meeting the unknown. Podcast presenting is a form of performance. It gets easier the more you do it. But how do we get there?
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There are key worries when it comes to this form of performance anxiety;
- What if I sound stupid?
- Why does my voice sound so awful (to me)?
- What if I make a mess of it?
- What if people think I'm no good?
- What if I lose my place or forget something?
What if I Sound Stupid?
A natural fear, but trust me – it goes away. Once you've done a few episodes, you won't even think about it. When you listen back to your recording, you should hopefully realise that you're doing better than you'd feared.
Yes, your voice sounds different on tape to how you hear it in your head, but there's a scientific explanation for that. It's to do with acoustics and the vibrations in your head caused by your voice. Everybody's voice sounds different to them when they hear a recording played back. Make peace with it and move on!
What if I Make a Mess of it?
It's a podcast recording! If you do fluff a word or phrase, just stop and take a breath. Maybe even a curse word or too. When you're ready, go again.
What if People Think I'm no Good?
Remember; it's your podcast and you're the expert! People listening to your show have already bought into that. As long as you get your message across coherently, your audience will be happy.
What if I lose my place or forget something?
Again, it's a recording. Stop, take a breath, and read over your notes. Did you digress? Find your place and carry on. The magic is all in the editing. Surely you've seen or heard enough “Blooper Reels” to know you're not alone in making the odd fluff!
Practice Makes Perfect
Cliché time – “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” A famous quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt when he became President in 1933, and with good reason.
If you're feeling nervous in front of the microphone, try talking about something other than your podcast for ten minutes. Make some notes and chat away to yourself until you feel a bit more relaxed. You'll find your voice before you know it.
It's the same with all things; presentations, podcasting, even Karaoke – it gets easier each time.
I would also add that for extra confidence early on in your podcasting career, you could try a few practice runs without recording it. Simply talk aloud and go through your script notes until they're second nature.
Then, when the red light is on for recording, you'll find it flows much more harmoniously.
Other Things to try During Recording
It could be that you need something or someone to focus on while you're talking aloud. It's all good and well knowing you've to address one imaginary listener, but it can feel strange talking to an empty room.
Try putting a teddy bear in the space opposite you. Seriously, Ted wants to hear all about your topic, so let him or her know! Focus your wording and energy on talking to the teddy.
Don't want to talk to a teddy? Okay, that's understandable. What about a photo? Try sticking a photograph up on the wall and talking to it.
You could even talk to your own reflection in the mirror. Having an animated image to glance at could help galvanise your performance.
Heck, if none of that suits you, what about just imagining a trusted family member or friend is in the room? It's your job to present your topic to them, without the pressure of them actually being there.
It really depends on your own personal tastes and sensibilities, but I know these things have all worked for different people.
That sudden, mad impulse to rush through it – we all know it. Fight the urge!
Talking too fast disruptes the natural flow of your breathing. You'll end up with short, shallow breaths that in turn messes with your diction and rhythm.
Not only that but you'll often end up holding your breath in a subconscious effort to control it. Suddenly, you're short of breath and panic starts to kick in. Worst of all, it detracts from your performance. A sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Break the Cycle
You CAN beat the fear! Just keep practicing, and try some of the techniques we talked about.
Remember – you're in control. You can record and delete to your heart's content. Not only that but, when it comes to your topic, you're the expert and we want to hear you!
Did this article help you? Do you have any suggestions for getting over performance nerves? Let me know in the box below.
This was episode 2 in the Podcasting Presentation series.