To make public speaking easier, don't calm down, scientists say. Instead, get excited.
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology took a look at strategies for getting through a tense public performance — ranging from making a speech, to solving a math problem, to belting out a tune at karaoke — and found that, though we might think calming down is our best bet, it actually might be our worst.
The Atlantic explains:
The initial online survey confirmed that most people (85 percent) thought the best advice in the face of performance anxiety was to try to calm down. Participants sang better when they told themselves they were excited than when they said "I am anxious," or nothing. Participants in the excited condition were also rated as giving better speeches and performed better on the math task than those in the calm condition. Brooks also found that people who reappraised their anxiety as excitement were more likely to view the math task as an opportunity than a threat.
That re-framing a public performance as a game to get excited about, as opposed to a test to try and pass, results in better performance makes sense. Less easy to accept may be the researchers choice of karaoke song, Journey's "Don't Stop Believing'", which the study's author explains thus: "I chose 'Don't Stop Believin'' as the target song because it can be performed easily in three different octaves (suitable for both male and female participants). 'Don't Stop Believin'' was also the 21st most downloaded song in iTunes history and tends to be extremely familiar to English speakers."
So, what are your tips and tricks for getting through public speaking? Also, can we all please collaborate on choosing a better karaoke song?