Many artists have become acquainted with the paralyzing cold-sweat sensations that shake limbs and turn stomaches into spin cycles when performing before an audience. While natural composure relieves a few fortunate artists from these stage fright symptoms, there are simple steps the rest of us can take to combat the trepidation.
It’s important to recognize that “public speaking ranks ahead of snakes, heights, and the dark as causing fear in people worldwide,” as noted by Dave Arnold in a National Education Association article. Called Glossophobia, this stage fright anxiety constricts the ability to communicate before a group of people, sometimes resulting in nausea and shortness of breath. An uncited stat in Wikipedia entry claims glossophobia affects 75% of all people.
While most would agree feeling strains of anxiety when you take to the stage can be an intimidating experience, a little stage fright shouldn’t stop you from sharing your music. You’ve already shared your songs over the Internet via social music sites like Echoboost.com and now you’re taking the natural step towards a live performance.
The first step in battling stage fright is preparation. Start by selecting the songs you feel will appeal your intended audience—yes, the boisterous crowd at the local pub is vastly different than the folks at the reverent coffee house across the street. Rehearse the songs over and over in front of a mirror to eliminate mechanical flaws while evaluating your posture and presence. Sounds cheesy, but seeing yourself as the audience sees you will gradually make you more comfortable with yourself. Don’t have a mirror? Video record your rehearsals.
Helpful hint: write down the song titles, key lyrics, chord changes, capo tunings or any other useful info on a small slip of paper and tape it to the top side of your guitar or keyboard. Adhere this in a convenient place you can easily look down for a quick reference.
You can now work on your confidence by inviting a few friends over for a mini concert. Easier said than done, you may experience some apprehension playing in front of friends. That’s the point. If you can conquer the stage fright you feel when playing in front of close acquaintances, there’s no reason why you can’t roll out your work before a group of strangers. Finish by asking for constructive feedback, then go and rehearse some more.
Now that you’re prepared and confident, take a moment to come to grips with your expectations. Embrace the fact that this is only a single performance and, no matter what happens, the earth will continue to spin, the sun will rise and you’ll be okay. Bottom line: there’s really nothing to worry about.
As you countdown to your performance, the butterflies in your gut will begin kicking up dust. Don’t let this minor stage fright hiccup discourage you. Just close your eyes and resolve to give it your best. Just ease into that comfort zone you reached while playing in front of the mirror and you’ll be fine.