Overcoming Stage Fright

This post is perfect for the performer who knows stage-fright all too well! Read on for a few tips and tricks on combating the nerves and rocking your performance--whether it's a show, a song, a dance, or anything in-between!

Pitch Perfect may present the most extreme case of stage fright ever fictionalized when the lead singer for the Bellas spews vomit into the crowd. Sadly, this isn’t so fictional. Grammy-Award-winning singer, Adele, admits such a bad case of stage fright that she once projectile vomited onto someone, and in another situation she escaped out a fire escape window rather than face singing before a crowd.

In fact, some of the greatest performers of stage and screen have struggled with performance anxiety. While performing in Othello, Laurence Olivier had such a case of stage fright that he had to be pushed out on stage for each scene and demanded that fellow performers not look him in the eye. Jim Carrey tells the story of a heckling at one of his early comedy performances that took two years for him to regain the confidence to go back onstage. After forgetting the lyrics to a song, Barbara Streisand refused to perform live for nearly three decades and, to this day, demands that everything she speaks or sings is placed on a teleprompter.

So if you suffer from stage fright, know that you’re not alone and that it can be overcome. If you have intense fear or anxiety in speaking or performance situations you may suffer from a form of social anxiety disorder known as glossophobia. Such anxiety disorders lead to physical manifestations, such as sweating, nausea, and rapid heart rate, and to feelings of being viewed as “awkward”, “boring”, or “stupid”.

Actors spend much of their time offstage uncovering fears about being seen and of being vulnerable so that they can accept themselves, the strengths they have. They also learn valuable exercises designed not only to warm up voice and body, but also to dispel nervous energy and to focus the mind on the performance ahead.


But what can you do if anxiety threatens to get in the way of your performance?


Be Prepared

A well-practiced presentation makes mistakes less likely and thus puts the presenter more at ease, and, because practice ingrains the presentation, it frees the mind to deal with the unexpected when it comes along.


Warm-Up

Vocal warm ups loosen the mouth so that you are less likely to stumble over words, which can cascade into negative feedback loops. Stage fright is a manifestation of the fight or flight response so doing physical warm ups is also a good way of allowing your body to release stress hormones and anxious energy.


Practice Good Habits

Limit caffeine, alcohol, and sugar that may intensify feelings of nervousness and eat a light well-balanced meal so that you’re not hungry during your performance.


Focus On Content

Your audience has come to see the content of the performance, not you specifically (unless you are Laurence Olivier). Think of what they want to see and let the content speak rather than you.


Use Focal Techniques

Diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, yoga, and other relaxation exercises not only loosen up the body, but also bring focus to your performance.


Maintain Positive Thinking

Visualizing a successful performance is a technique used by athletes, singers, actors, and more. Try to maintain focus on the positive rather than dwelling on what might go wrong.


Prepare For The Unexpected

There’s a reason improvisation is part of actor training. The more accustomed you are to dealing with the unexpected, the less likely it is to throw you when you encounter it.


Be Yourself

Great performers find ways to connect themselves even to characters that seem furthest from who they are. That sense of connection can put you at ease so that you are just being you.

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Ivan Young is a writer with Happy Writers, Co. in partnership with classic & contemporary furniture retailer Bauhaus2YourHouse.

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