Actors and public figures can make public speaking look easy, but for many people, the thought of getting up in front of a room to speak to a group of people is terrifying. Even professional actors and polished speakers, as Jane Beard herself knows, can at times be defeated by nervousness and the fear of failure. That’s why Jane wrote Don’t Sweat the Talk Stuff: Instant Help for Nervous Speakers, a book filled with great suggestions for overcoming your fears and helping you succeed at giving a speech or presentation.
Jane Beard is an award-winning, professional actor. She has appeared in plays around the country, done commercials, and appeared in feature films and television. And while acting is her passion, she also knows what it is to be nervous. In fact, she was in a hit two-woman play in Washington D.C. that was so popular its run kept getting extended, and all the while, she kept feeling more and more nervous until finally she decided she couldn’t do it any more and had to take a trip to get away.
Her fear of being on stage became so great that for the next two-and-a-half years, she could not act at all. As she describes in the book, “At one point, I got so nervous that I couldn’t be in a theatre to watch a play I wasn’t even in. A few minutes before curtain, my heart would be racing, my palms would be sweating, and I’d have a tough time breathing. Pretty inconvenient for an actor.”
If a professional actor can suffer that much from stage fright, then no wonder people get nervous about doing presentations. Jane has learned the secrets to overcoming stage fright and public speaking, and with her husband, Jeff Davis, who also has a long theatre career, including directing Jane, she founded the company InVisible Light to help people become better speakers.
Of course, not everyone can work with Jane in person, which is why she wrote this great book that not only teaches you techniques for overcoming your fears of public speaking, but it also looks at the root causes behind those fears. She states early on in the book, “Stage fright isn’t the problem. Stage fright is the SOLUTION to an even bigger problem your subconscious mind is trying to avoid.” She discusses how fear of public speaking results from deeper fears that we might in some way be in danger, and she compares anxiety to a car’s check engine light: “That’s what your anxiety is doing: pointing you to pull over and check the engine. Don’t get mad at it for that. Don’t call it any names. Literally say, ‘Thank you for alerting me.’ And watch what happens then: almost immediately, your body will probably stop working so hard to get your attention.” In other words, anxiety is a good thing; it just isn’t serving us the way it should when it comes to public speaking.
Jane teaches speakers how to deal with the anxiety, understand it, and even succeed if they remain anxious or nervous. She helps them determine what type of stage fright they actually have by discussing the “The Eight Buckets of Stage Fright” so they can figure out what is causing their issue and then resolving it. Some of the buckets include messages from childhood that might be holding you back, and the fear that you can’t make a mistake, even to the extreme of just saying “um” or “ah.”
She then walks readers through various techniques they can use to overcome stage fright and speaker anxiety, ranging from mindfulness, to energy psychology techniques, and guided imagery exercises. Her goal throughout is to get to the subconscious level of what is causing the anxiety so the nervous speaker can treat the problem and not just the symptoms.
Finally, Jane offers the stories, names changed of course, of several people she and her company have helped work through their speaker anxiety, including discussing the reasons why they were nervous in the first place. I found several of these stories to be illuminating. I could even identify with some of these people because who isn’t nervous about speaking in public? And while I was in plays in high school and years later attended Toastmasters, several of the techniques and ideas Jane offered were new to me and I could see how they would be very effective. In addition, the book has several great cartoons to illustrate Jane’s points, and she also includes a bonus chapter at the end from her upcoming book.
I highly recommend Don’t Sweat the Talk Stuff to anyone who wants to do better with public speaking, whether it’s being in a play, giving a presentation, or just finding the courage to express an opinion in the conference room. It’s far better to read this book and do something about your nervousness of speaking in public than continuing to let it hold you back in life. Jane wisely points out, “No one dies from public speaking. So the fact is, you will ALWAYS be okay anyway.” So what are you waiting for? It’s time to conquer your fear and become not just a better speaker, but a happier, more confident person. Read Don’t Sweat the Talk Stuff and take control of your anxiety and your life. As Jane confirms, “We need the difference your voice will make in the world!”
For more information about Jane Beard and Don’t Sweat the Talk Stuff, visit her website.