How To Cure Stage Fright -- How To Perform In Front Of An Audience

All The World's A Stage -- Except For You

When I was six years old, I eagerly signed up to sing in my school's talent show. I was going to be singing "Maybe" from Annie, while my mom accompanied me on piano; we practiced for weeks until I had the act down. But when the big day arrived, I just couldn't do it. For whatever reason, I froze and couldn't make myself get up onto that stage. And you know what? I regretted it. Actually, I still regret it -- to this day, I can't hear that opening tune in "Annie" without wishing I'd gone through with the darn thing.

The good news is, I've since learned to overcome stage fright -- which works in my favor since you know, I'm a musician and people actually expect to hear notes come out of my flute when I take the stage. And though I still get nervous right before performances, I've even reached a point where I ENJOY entertaining people. I may be in the public eye, but when I'm on the stage, I'm in my own, little world.

The following are some tips for curing stage fright based on my experiences. Many will also work for those who wish to overcome public speaking anxiety. Of course, my suggestions won't benefit everyone who reads this, but hopefully you'll at least pick up some ideas which work for you. Now get ready because the curtain is rising...

Here I am up on stage. Don't I look relaxed?
Here I am up on stage. Don't I look relaxed?

All Eyes Upon You

The first exercise I'm going to suggest is very simple: the next time you speak with someone, make a point to look directly into her eyes. I'm not saying to stare without blinking and freak her out, but look deep into her eyes so she knows you're listening.

It's hard, isn't it? Many people have a tendency to look away or over a person when speaking with them. It's probably because our eyes are so vulnerable as they give away our emotions. But if you can get over the awkwardness of making eye contact, that's usually the first step in overcoming stage fright.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Everyone has heard the old saying, "Practice Makes Perfect." That comes into play here on two levels. First, you definitely want to practice whatever skill it is you're planning to perfect in public, whether it be singing a song in a show or giving a speech at a wedding. You want to make sure you know all of the lyrics or know the speech well enough so that you don't have your head buried in your notes while you deliver it.

However, what you also need to do is practice doing these things in front of an audience. This way, you won't go from being scared of taking the stage to suddenly having to face a large group. Instead, work up gradually. Start by having just one person listen to you. It helps if it's someone close to you like a good friend or a family member so he can give you constructive feedback. Next move on to a larger group. Go through your speech, peformance, etc. several times if you can before you go public. Get used to what it feels like to be up on a stage.

Feel The Fear

For me, one of the most difficult aspects of being afraid of something is well, being afraid. For instance, I'm a nervous flyer despite the fact that I've traveled all over the world. But whenever I have a flight coming up, I still become uptight and sometimes downright frightened. The only way to deal with this, though, is to "pass through" the fear. No, it won't be easy, but if you force yourself to go through something, you'll often see that it's not as bad as you anticipated.

This is why I suggest practicing your act or speech in front of people. Allow yourself to experience the fear and use this time to understand what can help you deal with it. Honestly, it doesn't go away -- but it does get easier over time. Often the anticipation anxiety is the worst part. But if you never get it over with, you'll never get past that anxiety.

Think Before You Speak (Or Perform)

There's that old idea that you can overcome stage fright by imagining you audience in your underwear. This has personally never worked for me, but I do like to visualize my performance before I take to the stage. In my case, I play jazz so I often have to improvise solos -- no safety net for me there! But by listening to the music and then thinking of it in my head, I can go through the steps I need to put on a decent show. I picture myself up on the stage, holding my flute in my hands, then go through the emotions I'll probably feel: Excitement? Definitely. Fear? Usually.  Nervousness? Absolutely. Pain? Probably not. I try to mentally conquer any negative emotions before going on. By the time I really do take to the stage, I feel as if I've already been through a few dress rehearsals! 

What's The Worst That Can Happen?

For many, what they're most afraid of is rejection. They fear that they'll mess up a note or freeze during a speech, and then they'll be laughed at. But seriously, think about it -- what's the worse that can happen? A few jerks laugh at you? No, you don't want to mess up; it stinks, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not the end of the world. For the most part, people WANT you to do well. People won't pay money to see a performance if they want you to fall down. Nor would someone ask you to deliver a speech if they didn't value your words. Being forced to deliver a speech for a grade in school is of course, a different story. But even then, chances are your teacher doesn't want to see you fail.

 

A Little Fear Goes A Long Way

If you don't feel at least some nerves, then you're probably getting too complacent. I've found that being a little scared keeps me on my toes; it forces me to concentrate on the notes rather than coast by. It gets my adrenaline pumping and keeps me excited throughout a show. In this sense, I LIKE having a tiny bit of stage fright. It indicates that playing live is still exhillarating for me and hasn't yet lost its thrill. Without having to challenge something, what's left?

Stay Calm -- The Rest Will Follow

Once on the stage, here are a few things I like to do:

1. Breathe deeply; this not only calms me, but makes me sound better on the flute. Trust me, I wouldn't get a deep, rich tone if I were very tense.

2. Pick an object and concentrate on it. If you're on a large stage, chances are you're going to have lights in your face and won't even be able to see the audience. I always like to look toward the back of the room. If I can see the audience members, I might pick a familiar face to gaze at, like my husband's. Picking an object or direction gives me something to concentrate on and lets me focus my eyes. Remember my eye contact exercise? You don't want to be looking down, but looking at something that's at eye level is a great way to make it APPEAR that you're acknowledging the crowd.

3. Get energized. One of the best thing about performing is watching the crowd get into it and knowing that you're affecting them on some level. Enjoy it. Enjoy the moment. Rather than running from the stage, make it yours. You can always be in charge -- as long as YOU want to be! 

More by this Author


Comments 39 comments

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

Public speaking and performing are pretty much the same when it comes to nervousness and fear. I really like the point you made about how people don't want to see you fall or fail (well, at least most of them don't). The audience came to see you or are doing their best to behave themselves while you do your thing.

To be honest, I should have pursued other things when I was younger. I have no problems speaking publicly...Maybe I should have been a (crooked?) politician...Who knows.

Thank you for sharing this. Hopefully, many will find it helpful. You might have been an a broadway star by now, had you listened to your older self back then, Naomi!


NaomiR profile image

NaomiR 7 years ago from New York Author

Thanks! I'm happy that I stuck with the flute, though.

And there's always time to become a crooked politician, LOL.


Hannahhhh 6 years ago

Hey I just want to say cheers for this and I'e found it really helpful.I've been performing on stage since I was little but for the first time ever I've got stage fright and its really not what I need so I'm really glad to have read this. I never get nervous singing and dancing but its just acting for some reason. Thanks :D


NaomiR profile image

NaomiR 6 years ago from New York Author

Hi Hannahhh,

Glad you found this helpful. Break a leg on your next performance!


ashely 6 years ago

I have to perform in front of a bunch of people and even people I don't like on december 25 I'll try to do some of the tips you gave and see if it works. Call me my number is ... just kiding. =)


wrenfrost56 profile image

wrenfrost56 6 years ago from U.K.

Great hub NaomiR, It's funny how things stay with you, I am sorry you still regret not being able to perform that time when you were six.

However you have learnt from that experience and wrote this informative hub, which I am sure will help many others suffering from stage fright.

Very informative and well written.


Stuart 6 years ago

Hi, your advice is really good. I get really nervous about playing guitatr even in fron of 1 or 2 ppl. It results in my face getin extremely red and it remains red for a long time. This really inhibis any thoughts i have of performing on stge as i hat ppl seeing my face red and i just look embarassed and awkward.

I know deep down i am a good musician and ppl alwas tell me i play really well. It kills me not beibg able to play and let ppl see my talents. Every day it hurts me knowing that i have never played, i have been asked to play at parties and with bands on sge but i'm too afraid. What shall i do as its really destroying me inside??

Thanks.

Sturt.


ninjo 6 years ago

i want to sing infront of the school but i dont have the guts.. X(


Kat 6 years ago

Thank you, this was extremely helpful. I'm auditioning for my school's chamber choir for the third year in a row and since it will be my last I actually want to make it for once. I always get so afraid that I shake and my voice becomes soft. I feel much more confident about singing by myself in front of my choir now :)


Healthy Living Is profile image

Healthy Living Is 6 years ago from allergies, people, flowers. health, diet, art, medicine, mental health

great Post


Jess 6 years ago

Thankyou! I'm about to go to an open mic session, and this helped :)


Jackson 5 years ago

thx a lot, im about to do a school talent show infront of 700 people playing the guitar


M. Scott Payne, drama teacher 5 years ago

Thanks for the tidbits. I am going to share them with my new drama students. Keep on performing!


Elisha Young 5 years ago

Thanks. I'm 13 ive done singing before, but i just get nervious ive peformed twice befor infront of about 600 people and its some scary crap. i try to keep my eyes locked on one person (my boyfriend) because i know he will be smiling at me. My friend who i sing with has the same experience as me, she dosent get nervious but everytime we practice she looks right into my eyes i thought that was quite weird until i read this. but anyways its wednesday atm and im singing on friday. the hardest part is knowing that everyone is looking at you and i also am afraid of rejection that's what brings me down.

Thanks for the advice,

Elisha (:


Nicklas 5 years ago

hey! im very used to performing with my band, but next week, we are set to go to germany and every night i think about it and feel very nervous. im so afraid that i might make big mistakes and as for me, im the lead guitarist of the band so the crowd will be hearing me play a lot and on top of that it will be my first time performing on another country


Emmi Kaminski 5 years ago

Thank you so much! This has helped clear a few things up for me, as I am going to be competing in a talent show in two days. I'm not nearly as nervous, now.


Charlie 5 years ago

I was reading this due to a performance coming up and its a stage recording with only one take which will then be sent of and marked (I'm a college student if you hadn't guessed)and I can never play as well when in front of an audience, I enjoy performing but it still affects my playing, any tips?


Becky 5 years ago

Hey, I'm performing on stage for my Acting A-level and have never been this nervous before. I suffer from anxiety anyway and it's made me even more nervous. I've been acting since I was little but I get more nervous each time I go on stage. Thank you for your tips, I'll give them a go and see how I get on. :D


Hannah  5 years ago

I'm doing a playquiz tomorrow for flute and i am sooooo nervous thanks for the advice though ill definetely try your tips! :)


kg 5 years ago

thx 4 the advice


joey 5 years ago

I look at the exit sign when I performe.


Isaac 5 years ago

Thanks a lot for the advise,

However i want to do comedy and become a world star which i think i can but am so nervous.When am rehearsing with a couple of friends i happen to do well and so is conversing with friends who say am soooo.. funny which i want to exploit for my career.Any more advise???


Kittycat 4 years ago

Thanks! I am definetely going to try this. I play the violin and I normally have a heart attack when I have to play in front of people, but I am gradually getting over it. Thanks for the advice and I'll try it as soon as possible!


Britney 4 years ago

Thank you :that really helped.


Abby 4 years ago

Thanks so much. I'm going to bookmark this. So I can refer back to it from time to time. I'm a singer and I've been singing in front of large crowds for about 15 yrs. I use to get so nervous that my intro's were shaky but I've mastered control. However I still get nervous so much that I don't remember my lyrics this is where your advice would really serve purpose for me. I also tend to worry to much about people that I don't really enjoy what I do only because I'm drawn to technicality rather than the emotion of what I'm singing. I will keep in mind that most people want me to do my thing. Also I don't really perform while I sing which definitely affects my stage presence. I've tried to focus on someone or something sometimes it works but mostly my nerves get the best of me in that area. But I will try harder. I'm not getting any younger so I've determined myself to research and strive to new heights. Thank you for your post well appreciated.


KYRA 4 years ago

THNX I JUST JOINED A BAND AND IM THE SONGWRITER BUT I ALSO SING N THE LEAD SINGER WANTED 2 HERE ME SING SO HE HAD 2 CALL WEN I WASN'T LOOKING AND MY FRIEND WOULD AWNSER IT N I WOULD SING HES HERD ME SING NOW BUT I STILL GET REELY SCARED WEN I SING I THINK WAT IF PEOPLE THINK IM HORRIBLE BUT THT DOESN'T MATTER WAT ALL MATTERS IS THT IM HERD!!


KYRA 4 years ago

2/2

ALSO I CANT EVEN READ A CLASS ASSAGHNMENT 2 MY CLASS CUZ IM AFRAID THEY'LL LAUGH @ ME AND IF THEY DO I FEEL DUMB BUT I HAVE 2 PERFORM A SKOOL PERFORMANCE WIT MY BAND N I CANT!


Eduardo 4 years ago

For me is totally different. When I'm in front of an audience and I need to speak I do it very fluently and perfectly, I own the space.

When I'm playing the flute is a little bit different and I get super scared, I'm not sure why, but it frustrates me so bad... I want to overcome my music performance fright... please help


Angelique 4 years ago

Hey, thanks for this. I'm my choir class we're doing the song "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz. My choir teacher had a chance for people who were thinking of doing the solo to sing in front of the class. At first I thought "what he hey, I'll do it!" but as I stood up, my heart started beating fast. As she started playing the music, my mouth and throat went dry, I started getting dizzy, and I was terrified! The ending result: I sang horrible!!! I was so mad at myself for being so scared, I love singing and I can sing in fronts of my friends, I can lead my section in choir. But alone when all eyes are on me? I freeze up. I got home from school and I was still shaking, and still mad at myself. I jumped on the Internet determined to find a way to stop my stage fright. The irony is, I can stand up in front of my class and yell at them for being loud and obnoxious, but I can't sing....I have a feeling that this is gonna help. Especially the eye contact thing, I suck at it. So thank you!


alexandra 4 years ago

thanxz very much this woud be very helpful to dance in front of the whole school


donna 4 years ago

thank you for this article. it really helped me a lot . you make really valid points, and i enjoy your perspective on overcoming stagefright! made me feel like i wasn't an abnormal freakazoid!


ackamo 3 years ago

thanks, this article was very helpful


omorin 3 years ago

thanks ,i got a line in the christmas play and i really need advice.


sara 3 years ago

thx, really helpful


Beth 2 years ago

It is scary as hell knowing everyone is astatine at my group I have to preform my drama murder but only small bits of each scean I am scared but hope your tips work Ty xx


Samantha 23 months ago

So, I am not very smart. I chose to do a solo for a competition/graded event for my school called Solo and Ensemble... I have major stage fright due to my anxiety... I will definitely try these tips.


Jerica Busch 19 months ago

I have to sing in front of a whole audience during open house at my school and I am so nervous


Ashlee 14 months ago

How about we all calm down and not make this worse.I know lots of u r mad for not getting on stage..


Ashlee (a.k.a Ashleigh) 3 months ago

I had a talent show in Ireland and won 1st place!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working