How can I perform with stage fright?
I get asked this frequently, and have even had to deal with it a couple times myself. Fearing the stage is never a pleasant prospect, whether performance is something you do in your free time or if it is something you must do for school, work, or a community group. But it is manageable. Here’s my advice for how:
Accept that nothing bad will happen. We aren’t minstrels of old, who are at risk for losing our heads if the reigning monarch didn’t like our songs. This is modern day! In my twenty-plus years of experience, I have never seen anyone performing a song get: pelted with rotten fruit, kicked off the stage, or assaulted in any way at any music event from early kindergarten concerts through semi-pro talent shows or concerts. Typically, people tend to be polite and…
Audience members look up to you because you’re gutsy enough to be up there and they know they’re not. It’s true! I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been approached by some WOWed listener — and their reason for being WOWed was simply because I was up on stage and that was something they admire. Everyone, at one time or another, has “rock star” dreams, which many never attain because they chicken out. Keep in mind you’re one of the ones who is making a go at it! Take heart in your own status as a soon-to-be stage-walking performer and tread those boards with pride!
Keep breathing. As long as you keep breathing, I can promise you that you won’t faint, choke, freeze, or panic.
Take time if necessary. If you have to, go ahead and pause to reorganize yourself. Time is a funny thing, it tends to be very elastic in a way that makes what feels like an eternity to you, barely ten seconds to the audience. In other words, they won’t notice. So go ahead and take that moment to breathe (!).
Get really comfortable with your material. I can’t stress this enough. The first time you put something out there is always going to make you a little nervous, but knowing it backwards and forwards can take a TON of the fear out of making it public. Go ahead and memorize if you want, but if you must rely on sheets or notes, know it well enough so that if you get distracted, you can still find your place quickly.
Mistakes are part of the game. Few performances in a lifetime are ever truly perfect, so embrace the unknown and just give the best you’ve got. Nine times out of ten, the audience will never catch on to a missed note, a skipped rest, or a forgotten phrase. If they won’t catch it, why are you stressing about it?
But above all, remember to have fun. 🙂 That’s the reason for this entire gig. If you aren’t having fun, what’s the point?
If you’re having problems dealing with stage fright, let me know if this helped you. If you’re a performer, feel free to share your own tips in the comments! 🙂