Throughout my life and career, I have heard many dancers say that they have a unconventional, and rather bizarre, fear of one thing: public speaking. And though the fear around public speaking may be indeed unconventional, it can still pose a challenge nonetheless. Sure, speaking in front of a crowd seems like a drop in the bucket compared to dancing in front of hundreds or even thousands of people. But quite honestly, the two scenarios are polar opposites. To a lot of dancers, the thought of being in front of a crowd of people and having the floor all to yourself to speak can be absolutely terrifying. The state of discomforted in these types of situations could also be attributed to the fact that as dancers we communicate our expressions and emotions with our body, which causes us to be our most comfortable in non-verbal communication rather than verbal communication.
I can relate to this subject matter rather deeply as public speaking was a fear of mine for quite some time. The thought of having to talk so publicly in front of people that I didn’t know used to completely make my skin crawl! Everytime, I would think to myself, “What do I say? What if my words get jumbled up? Or even worse, what if I fall on my way up there?!” As funny as this sounds, these are honestly thoughts that ran through my mind! Public speaking was once very nerve wracking for me, but with some work on my end, I learned how to get past it.
As dancers, choreographers and teachers, it’s so beneficial to conquer our fear of public speaking because it comes along with the job of being a dancer at some point or another. These types of situations come along with the territory when it comes to things such as teaching/speaking at workshops or conventions, judging dance competitions and hosting dance events of various kinds. Public speaking is also a big element in helping you connect more effectively with your students in the classes that you teach. Since public speaking has its place in the dance career field, conquering the fear of doing so also aids in making you more confident all around as dancer.
So, how do you conquer it? How do you get rid of the fear of public speaking once and for all? Well first and foremost, know that fear is an illusion. Think about it, most anything you’ve ever been scared to do, once you took the plunge and did it, you thought to yourself “Hmm, that wasn’t so bad after all”. This situation is honestly no different. No one in the audience is there to judge you. As a matter of fact, they are more than likely there to hear what you have to say. They want to hear your views and words of expertise or else they wouldn’t be in your class. And if, by chance, there is anyone the crowd that is judging you, let’s be honest, it really doesn’t matter. The same people who feel as though they have the right to judge others probably don’t have the guts to be in the situation that you are in. So don’t let the fear of judgment from others cause the illusion of fear to enter your mind. Instead, step back, take a look at the big picture and focus on the reason why you’re there. Whether it be for a class, convention or even a dance event for charity, focus on the greater cause of the event instead of the fact that you will have to speak in front of a crowd. You have something wonderful to contribute to the time and place. Don’t be afraid to do your part in every way that you can.
Another method that I used to help make myself more comfortable with public speaking is to organize my thoughts before I speak and even while I speak. For example, before it’s my time to approach the stage to introduce my class for their performance, I gather my thoughts and get an idea of what exactly I want to communicate to the audience. I remember to make strong points on things such as the premise and theme of the dance, the genre of the dance, the message we hope to convey with the dance, etc,. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t make up a script to follow or even go out on stage and try to repeat everything I preconceived in my head word for word. This method simply just gives me a ballpark idea of what I want to say so that way I won’t get up there and start rambling, you know what I mean? Doing this has honestly been such a life saver when it came to calming my nerves and I highly suggest that dancers struggling with public speaking give it a shot! In addition to that tip, please know that everything and every word will not be perfect. You may mess up or words may get a little jumbled sometimes but that’s okay. We’re all human and we all make these common mistakes. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Just enjoy all the positive experiences your dance career brings to you and don’t shy away from rolling with the punches! Even though I may have never met you in person, I know that you’re a boss in your own right and you can do anything that you set your mind to. Even if it involves a mic instead of a pair of jazz shoes.
Have a great weekend everyone and remember….