Advice from the experts: how to deal with stage fright

Presidential visit: Sri-Lankan business leader and philanthropist Balraj Arunasalam visiting Wollongong Toastmasters Club, the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere, for their 60th anniversary. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Presidential visit: Sri-Lankan business leader and philanthropist Balraj Arunasalam visiting Wollongong Toastmasters Club, the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere, for their 60th anniversary. Picture: Sylvia Liber

They say that the best way to tackle stage fright is to picture the audience naked.

Public speaking gurus Peter Crosby and Balraj Arunasalam from Toastmasters International may not stick to that advice exactly, but the sentiment is similar: relax and break the tension.

Toastmasters District President Peter Crosby says that he likes to take some time out before speaking, to breathe deep and gather himself together.

“Every time. I still get nervous every time,” he said.

“Sometimes I talk myself up beforehand, you know, ‘this is going to be awesome, people are really going to take something away from this!’ just to get myself ready.”

International President Balraj Arunasalam on the other hand likes to crack a joke to warm up the audience.

“They laugh, you laugh, everyone relaxes,” he said.

“I get over my nervous energy with some humour and then I can talk and deliver a serious message.”

Both agree though, that the key to good public speaking lies in the preparation: know your audience, know your topic, know your time constraints.

International President Balraj Arunasalam flew out from Sri Lanka and visited Wollongong on Wednesday, celebrating 60 years of the oldest Toastmasters club in the Southern Hemisphere.

Toastmasters International is an organisation made up of clubs that focus on teaching communication and leadership, particularly in the area of public speaking.

International President Balraj Arunasalam of Toastmasters International stopped over in Wollongong during his whirlwind visit from Sri Lanka. Picture: Sylvia Liber

International President Balraj Arunasalam of Toastmasters International stopped over in Wollongong during his whirlwind visit from Sri Lanka. Picture: Sylvia Liber

The clubs are grouped in districts, and the Illawarra falls under district 70, which includes NSW and Canberra.

Some famous Toastmasters include actors Tim Allen and Leonard Nimoy, and astronaut James Lovell from the Apollo 13 mission. 

Mr Arunasalam started the very first Sri Lankan club in the capital city, Colombo, and says that the material has benefited him enormously in his leadership style.

“I didn’t join just to lead people or to speak.” he said.

“It has made me a better father, husband, son. I’m a friend now instead of just a boss, I request people to do things instead of ordering.” 

The organisation itself is over 90 years old, and has been teaching people from all walks of life essential leadership and communication skills.

Each club is made up of at least 20 members, who meet together to practice and share ideas. Mr Arunasalam says that most of the 13 clubs in the Illawarra are made up of members from the corporate sector, but says that there’s something for everyone.

“We transform lives.” said Mr Arunasalam.

“Our material may look simple, but the outcome of that material is truly unbelievable. That’s where the magic happens, that’s where the transformation happens.”

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