Stage fright, also known as performance anxiety, can be a daunting challenge for many people.
Whether you’re an aspiring actor, a budding musician, a public speaker, or even a student giving a presentation, the fear of performing in front of an audience can be overwhelming.
However, it’s important to remember that stage fright is a common experience shared by many professionals who have learned effective strategies to overcome it. We dive into several of these strategies below, and explore some of the most valuable tips on how to conquer stage fright and deliver a confident and memorable performance.
If you are struggling with fear of public speaking, try to think of the four elements as you’re reading through these tips: Earth, Air, Water and Fire.
1. Prepare Thoroughly
You’ve heard “practice makes perfect” for a reason. One of the most effective ways to combat stage fright is through thorough preparation. Practicing your speech and rehearsing regularly will make you more comfortable with the material you are presenting, and will help you feel significantly less anxious on stage.
Familiarize yourself with the venue or stage beforehand, if possible, to reduce surprises on the day of the performance. It’s also important to anticipate potential obstacles, such as technical difficulties or audience questions. When practicing, anticipate being interrupted by questions, loud noises or other outside factors. This will help you feel less nervous when disruptions do arise.
2. Embrace Nervous Energy
Instead of viewing stage fright as a negative experience, try to reframe it as a source of energy and excitement. When you think about nervous energy, it can make you feel hot, just like fire. Use that heat to warm yourself up and energize your body language.
Many seasoned performers view their pre-performance nerves as a sign that they care about their craft. It is an indication that the passion and excitement they feel for their performance will come through on stage. Rather than letting it bring you down, use your nerves to fuel a great show. Embrace the adrenaline rush and channel it into your performance. Use deep breathing exercises and positive self-talk to help manage your nervous energy.
3. Ground Yourself & Visualize Success
Visualization is a powerful technique used by professionals in various fields, including performing arts and sports. Close your eyes and imagine yourself delivering a flawless performance. Visualize the audience’s positive reactions and your own feelings of confidence and accomplishment. By mentally rehearsing success, you can create a positive mindset that will help alleviate stage fright.
Moreover, by grounding yourself and planting both your feet firmly on the stage, you can feel how solid the floor is and how it is supporting you as you stand there. You will not fall. Allow that solid grounding to transfer up through your body, and use the element of earth to remind you that not even your fear or anxiety will knock you down.
4. Focus on the Audience
Believe it or not, shifting your focus away from yourself and onto the audience can help reduce stage fright. Many think quite the opposite – that focusing on the people staring at them, the number of eyes on them, will make them even more frightful and unnatural in their delivery.
But remember, you are there to share something valuable with the audience. It might be a story, a piece of advice, new music, knowledge on a specific topic, the list can go on. Whatever it is, remain focused on connecting with your audience and engaging with individuals. Rather than seeing the forest through the trees, do the exact opposite – see each unique, single tree.
Maintain eye contact, take note of their facial expressions, and consider their positive response as motivation.
5. Breathe Deeply
Deep breathing is one of the best techniques for calming nerves and reducing stage fright.
Taking a few deep breaths before beginning your performance can help you relax and feel more in control of your emotions. It will help lower your heart rate, reduce physical tension, and give you time to collect yourself mentally.
Focus on slow, steady inhalations and exhalations as you fill your lungs with oxygen. And as you exhale, imagine the fear and anxiety that is leaving your body like air escaping a balloon. Air is part of our bodies – use this element to help you stay calm and in control of your emotions.
6. Speak Positively to Yourself
When it comes to managing stage fright, your inner dialogue matters – so be kind to yourself!
Whenever negative thoughts start creeping in, replace them with positive affirmations. Think of someone else you know that has given a similar speech, or has gotten up in front of a similar crowd. Perhaps think: “If they can do it, I can do it.”
Keeping in mind that we are all just human beings. You are not the first person to get up in front of a group to give a public speech, and you certainly will not be the last. In addition, trust the work that you’ve done and the preparation you’ve made for your public speech. You are ready.
7. Embrace Failure as Part of the Process
Even the most experienced performers have had their fair share of mistakes and failures. Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process, and can actually be a valuable experience.
Mistakes and missteps do not define your worth as a performer or public speaker.
Embrace the possibility of making errors and view them as opportunities to grow. Be aware of your own limitations so you don’t set yourself up for disappointment. For example, if you have not had enough time to practice your speech or rehearse, don’t expect perfection. By taking your nervous energy and using that fiery feeling to power through, you can turn your “failures” into successes.
8. Stay Hydrated & Practice Self-Care
Leading up to a performance, prioritize self-care to ensure you are in the best possible mental and physical state. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and engage in activities that help you relax and unwind.
The last element, water, is highly important. Anxiety causes a dry mouth, and dehydration can lead to physical symptoms of – you guessed it – more anxiety. Drinking water before going on stage or stepping in front of a crowd also helps clear your throat and keep your mouth wet, allowing you to enunciate and speak more clearly.
Remember: There is no rule that says public speakers can’t have water with them, so bring a bottle or cup of water along with you and take sips as needed.
Further, part of practicing self care is also choosing to surround yourself with positivity, such as a supportive network of friends, family, or fellow performers who understand and empathize with your stage fright. Sharing your fears and concerns with others can provide reassurance and encouragement.
9. Seek Professional Help
If stage fright is severely impacting your ability to perform, consider seeking professional help from a speaking coach or industry leader. Coaches specializing in performance anxiety can provide valuable guidance and techniques to overcome your fears. They can help you identify the root causes of your anxiety and develop personalized strategies to manage it effectively.
Tricia Brouk is an award-winning director, writer, producer and public speaking coach. Each year, she puts speakers on big stages and she hosts the award-winning podcast on public speaking, The Big Talk. Get in touch with Tricia today to learn more about her offerings and services.
Stage fright may feel insurmountable at times, but with persistence and the right strategies, it can be overcome. Remember that even the most accomplished performers have experienced stage fright at some point in their careers.
By learning techniques to help you manage your anxiety, and continuous practice, you can gradually build your confidence and deliver captivating performances.