Amy Botes is feeling PEPPED about courage this week and shares her secrets of how to fling your fears away when speaking publically:

‘We all have that fear of getting up in front of people and speaking whether that be at a meeting, doing a presentation or performing on stage. But one piece of wisdom I will give you is this: Don’t be afraid – don’t take yourself so seriously. What is the worst that could happen by you opening your mouth? No small baby is going to die. Speaking up in a meeting is like speaking up at the pub and sometimes it’s the one that is the most drunk who is heard. Now, I am not saying: go and drink before a meeting! What I am saying is, if you leave some of your unhelpful inhibition at the door, this can be very helpful. Say you are going to a meeting and there are a lot of ‘powerful’ and ‘influential’ people there – approach it like you are just as powerful and influential. I dare you to take on the status of someone ‘higher’ than you – even it just gives you the courage to speak up. In fact I double dare you to prepare something and then get up and do it.

At RADA we had a termly appraisal called: ‘Verse and Song’ and you had to get up in front of all your peers and teachers (people you greatly admire and want to impress) and perform a poem and song. A teacher of mine had said at the beginning of the course that this appraisal was probably the hardest thing you will ever do and bearing in mind, many of these people were to go on to be major Hollywood movie stars and sparkling stars of the West End and Broadway, this was saying something. The truth is, she was right – performing in front of your peers is extremely difficult. Seeing the whites of their eyes whilst you stumble through your presentation or speech can be a terrifying white knuckle ride! However, I remember that the one time I really nailed it was when I let go of my inhibitions – I like to call this ‘forgetting the brain’ – so forgetting the self analysis and just letting my body and my instincts take over. I trusted in myself and I just let the work speak for itself. I was nervous but that actually fuelled the performance rather than hindered it.

Interestingly enough I think the less you care (about what the audience thinks) and the more you prepare the better. So next time you are in that meeting and you want to speak up – DO IT and FORGET THE BRAIN! You will be amazed at the results. Being bold and brave is all part of being confident. I am sure people we regard as the epitome of confidence – such as Churchill and Obama – all have their moments of self doubt. Nobody is completely confident all of the time. However, managing to prove to yourself that you are capable is half the battle.

I remember hearing a story a teacher told me which was terrifying but very inspiring. She said that a 2nd year RADA student had been very bound by nerves and fear of what people may think and so she told him to go on the tube one day and perform his verse in front of a packed carriage – just out of the blue with very little warning. So she instructed him just to say: ‘This is a poem by so-and-so’ and then launch into it. Now you can imagine the fear of that situation – a carriage full of strangers and nobody looking at each other. The tube in London is notorious for being a place where people are very wary of each other. Well, this student DID IT. He got up, performed his poem and the whole carriage erupted into warm, spontaneous applause. Now, I find this story very moving – not because of the performance, although I am sure it was very beautifully performed but because of the courage this must have taken. But above all, one thing I take from this story is: just do it, have the courage because you never know, you might even find that your audience appreciates what you have to say! We all assume that an audience is going to judge negatively but generally a body of people will not have that reaction – especially if they don’t expect anything at all. So BE BRAVE, get up and speak out because it might just prove to you and everyone else that what you have to say is worth listening to. Now there’s a thought….’

Amy Botes is RADA trained Actress who offers training to business professionals both through 1:1 coaching and workshops in the South of England. She is hoping to launch an online course in presentation skills via Udemy in 2017.

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