A Voice Artist's Guide on How to Beat Stage Fright Before it Beats You

Adele - Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performer beats stage fright.
Adele - Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performer beats stage fright. | Source

Tips to Beat Stage Fright

As a former singer and current voice over artist, I can attest to the tips I am about to share in this article. Mainly, you want to:

  1. Have Positive People Around You

  2. Eat or Drink Something Before the Performance

  3. Get Out on Stage

  4. Relax

I'll go over each point in more detail in a minute, but first it is important to understand that stage fright is common among performers. Many entertainers suffer from stage fright. To name a few, the following super stars are noted to have suffered from stage fright at some time in their performing career:

Professional Performers Who Suffer From Stage Fright

Performer
Occupation
Lucille Ball
(actor/singer)
Roseanne Barr
(comedian/actor)
Kim Basinger
(actor)
Delta Burke
(actor)
Nicholas Cage
(actor)
John Cougar Mellancamp
(muscian)
Mariah Carey
(singer)
Johnny Depp
(actor)
Aretha Franklin
(singer)
Michael Jackson
(singer)
Naomi Judd
(actor)
Nicole Kidman
(actor)
Donny Osmond
(entertainer)
Winona Ryder
(actor)
Barbara Streisand
(siner/actor)
Cher
singer/actor)
Even talented, successful artists struggle with stage fright, also known as performance anxiety.

My Bout With Stage Fright

I was the worship leader for a local church’s weekday service. For four years I planned the music sets, rehearsed with the band, and sang in front of a sizeable congregation. Each week, part of my routine for preparing for the night’s performance was taking steps to overcome stage fright.

Even though I prayed before each service, I was never able to ward off the onset of stage fright. Each night, in the minutes before the show, my breathing would become labored, my hands would become sweaty, and as I looked beyond the curtains to view the audience, seeing the crowd grow as more and more people entered into the congregation caused my nerves to unravel to such an extent that I became nauseous and uneasy. As the years went by, the extent of the nervousness subsided, but after four years, I still had to deal with stage fright before each service.

Now, as a commercial and audiobook voice recording artist, even though my recording studio consists only of me and my recording equipment, I still get stage fright. I think it’s because I record commercials and audio books, so in essence my audience is the entire world. The thought of that gives me a jolt in the realization that my audience is far greater than I can see.

Me and The Band Beat Stage Fright

We called ourselves "Mosaic", overcoming stage fright moments before each performance every week.
We called ourselves "Mosaic", overcoming stage fright moments before each performance every week. | Source

Yes You Can Overcome Stage Fright

While psychologists say there is no cure for stage fright, they do agree that a person can overcome stage fright. Besides, they go on to say that a person who does not experience some sort of stage fright before each performance is probably someone void of feelings or emotions. A person without feelings is someone who most likely has no connection with the audience, much less a connection with the outcome of what he or she is presenting. In other words, the person could care less about the outcome, therefore, there is no need to stress out about it.

As a former singer and now a voice over artist, I discovered four things that helped me overcome stage fright. Here are four things that can help singers, public speakers, and actors overcome stage fright.

  • Have Positive People Around You
    Nothing rattles your nerves more than the overly critical person who comes up to you just before the show asking a question like, “Aren’t you nervous about that high C note in the first chorus?” All of a sudden, a note that you had no trouble executing is suddenly causing you to worry about whether or not you can hit the note this time. Even someone asking whether or not you are nervous can trigger the mind into thinking you might be nervous.
    Take note of the people who surround you prior to your performance. If you cannot get away from negative people prior to your performance, isolate yourself until it is time to go on stage. Remember, the only people you want to be around you before a show are positive, uplifting people. You want people who will encourage you with words like, “I know you will be successful.”

  • Eat or Drink Something Before Your Voice Performance
    Do not perform on an empty stomach. This will only cause you to be weak and may even cause increased nervousness. You don’t have to eat a big meal, but you should eat something. I prefer to eat something high in protein. A boiled egg is perfect. If you simply feel you can’t eat before the performance, at least drink something smart and nourishing like a glass of orange juice. Whatever you eat or drink, make sure it is something that is completely agreeable to you. What may be good for you may not be good for another.
    In my book titled, “Ten No Nonsense Steps to Becoming an Audiobook recording Artist” I have an entire chapter on what foods to avoid before your performance.
  • Get Out on the Stage
    Just do it! Just get out on the stage. No matter how nervous you are, just get out on the stage anyway. Don’t think about your nerves; don’t think about how you look. I assume you practiced and rehearsed adequately for your performance, so I encourage you not to think about whether or not your performance will go well. Just step out on the stage, nerves and all.
  • Relax!
    Now that you are on stage, take a moment to become relaxed. Take a deep breath in and a deep breath out. Upon seeing you, your audience will enjoy the pause. It allows them to “take you in” before you begin your performance.
    Don’t look at the audience. Look beyond them, not at them. Only look into the audience if you have a designated person who makes you feel completely comfortable to look at. It needs to be someone who will smile at you and nod approvingly during your performance. If you do not have a confidant in the audience, then do not look at the audience. Pick a place at the back of the room and look at that.

    Don’t think about yourself until you are ready to exit the stage. The only thing important now is the song you are singing, the speech you are giving, or the scene you are acting.

Super Star Adele Beats Stage Fright

Stage Fright Poll

What is your first stage fright symptom?

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Get Over Yourself to Get Over Stage Fright

Your performance is not about you.

Now that you are on stage, you have taken in and let out a deep breath. You are looking beyond the audience. You should be feeling a little less stressed. Think about what you are going to sing, what you are going to speak about, or what you are going to perform. Do not think about how you are feeling. It’s not important.

Once you are up on the stage, your performance is not about you; it’s about what you are going to sing, say, or perform. It is about the message you are going to deliver to the audience, so don’t let yourself get in the way of delivering what the audience came to hear and see.

Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin Beats Stage Fright

Even Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul" admits to struggling with stage fright.
Even Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul" admits to struggling with stage fright. | Source

Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul

Stage Fright is an Equal Opportunity Attack

No one is immune to stage fright. Even Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul” admits that she use to struggle with stage fright. In Mark Bego’s book titled “Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul,” Franklin claims,

“I once had this problem about actually walking out on the stage. Sometimes I still have that problem… you know? It’s a thing about whether everything is hanging right, whether my hair looks okay… all those people sitting out there looking at me, checking me out from head to toe. Wow! That really used to get to me, but I’ve overcome it by just walking out onstage night after night, year after year.”

Pop Star Mariah Carey Beats Stage Fright

Mariah Carey, popular rock star reported to overcome stage fright.
Mariah Carey, popular rock star reported to overcome stage fright. | Source

Most Performers Suffer From Stage Fright

I read an interesting article on “backstage” – an industry news source for people in the entertainment industry. The article features famous performer
Gordon Goodman as he talks about acting and how 84% of performers he surveyed suffer from stage fright. Goodman earned his Ph.D. in psychology from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, Calif. His dissertation was about stage fright.

Of those surveyed, Goodman said, 84% reported experiencing stage fright at least once in their careers. The actors came from various areas of the performing arts.

  • 72% toured nationally or internationally
  • 40% had performed on Broadway
  • 56% had at least one co-staring role on a TV show
  • 30%+ had at least one co-starring role in a film

So, you see, stage fright is a common phenomenon in the performing arts industry. The key to beating stage fright is to learn how to take hold of stage fright and manage it before and during your performance.

You Are In Control of Your Stage Fright

There are more radical and more aggressive methods performers use to treat stage fright, and I can't say positive or negative comments about them because I have not tried them myself.

Performers, like Adele, have been known to use hypnosis and ancient exotic methods to help alleviate the debilitating effects of stage fright. I guess when your livelihood depends on it, you'll try anything. I believe in starting with natural methods of controlling stage fright attacks before progressing to more involved procedures.

You see now that it is common for performers to have stage fright no matter how good they are at their craft. The key to beating stage fright is to learn how to take hold of stage fright and beat stage fright before stage fright beats you.

There is only one you. So, be the best YOU!

Marlene Bertrand is a voice recording artist dedicated to helping you be the best you can be.

© 2014 Marlene Bertrand

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18 comments

MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 11 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hi ladyguitarpicker. Yes. Stage fright can stop a person cold. I still struggle from time to time. But, learned to work through it.


ladyguitarpicker profile image

ladyguitarpicker 11 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

Hi, Stage fright is a very debilitating problem. I had a terrible problem with it. I am fine if playing my guitar with another person, on my own it is a different story. Thanks for the advice. Stella


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 20 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hi Rangoon House. Sometimes, it only takes one negative comment to make us doubt ourselves and allow stage fright to set in. It is good that you isolated the source so that it can be dealt with and hopefully overcome. Best wishes to your daughter in all of her performances.


Rangoon House profile image

Rangoon House 20 months ago from Australia

I appreciated reading your advice about stage fright Marlene. My daughter is an amateur performer in different genres - piano, singing, drama, dance - some of which give her greater stage fright than others. I think she suffers most in piano performance and that it dates back to a negative comment from a "friend" - we only isolated this about a year ago and hope that the recognition of the source of the problem will help in future performances.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 2 years ago from Northern California, USA Author

teaches12345, thank you for your compliment. I believe you are right, the audience really does want you to succeed. Taking that deep breath - pausing is a good way to let the audience embrace the you before performing. At least, that is what I have found works for me.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

I was surprised at the number of actors and musicians who suffer from stage fright. YOu would never know if not told. I always reminded my speech class that the audience wants you to succeed. It helped some to get through the nervousness. Great tips on overcoming stage fright. I am impressed with your background. YOu are so talented!


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 2 years ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hello ChitrangadaSharan. Yes. It has been a while since I have been here. It feels good to be back. It's like coming home. And, thank you for your positive feedback. I was as surprised as you to learn of the number of people who have stage fright. The list is much longer, but I chose the ones I thought people would be most familiar with. The good news is that they have all overcome stage fright, which gives hope to someone who is a beginner at performing on stage.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

So nice to see you after a long time!

Very helpful tips to beat stage fright. Looking at the names you have mentioned, it is difficult to imagine these stars have gone through the same which a beginner normally does. I believe this kind of fright can only go by developing confidence and repeated exposures.

Nice to see you in pictures.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 2 years ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hello Faith. It is good to see your familiar face. I have been away for a while, having fun with narrating audio books and such. I'm happy to be back publishing again. I use to be super shy, too. And, over the years I learned to just jump right in, no matter how nervous I was. Nothing bad ever happened to me for stumbling over my presentation. But, I did learn that the more prepared I was, the less I stumbled. Thank you for reading and for sharing.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Hi Marlene,

So great to see you publishing and your lovely new profile photo too!

What an interesting hub here. I was surprised at such a long list of the great artists here who had stage fright, and especially these particular actors and artists!

I am so glad you have found great ways to help with stage fright. Oh, back in the day, I was so shy, that my knees would knocked together when I had to enter a room that was full of people! LOL

I am over all of that now and I know when I am prepared and confident in what I am about to deliver, then I have no fear whatsoever, if I know it will be my best effort.

Up ++++ tweeting and pinning

God bless you


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 2 years ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hi Nell. When I started reading about all the performers who struggle with stage fright, I was amazed to discover some of the names noted for that dilemma. I like the idea of seeing the audience as rows of cabbage. I imagine that would really work. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Hi Marlene, I am surprised that Nicholas Cage had stage fright! he is such an amazing actor, I remember being like that many years ago when I used to dance on stage, our tutor told us that if we look at the audience we will shrivel up! lol! so her idea was to think of them as rows of cabbages! and it really did work! especially as the lights were down when we were on stage, we could only see the tops of their heads so it really did look like it! lol! great article and so useful, nell


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 2 years ago from Northern California, USA Author

Thank you for your positive feedback, DDE. It is good to see you.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Smartly approached and so good to read another hub from you.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 2 years ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hi MsDora. It is good to see you. Yes. Stage fright doesn't care who you are. It is something that affects professionals as well as amateurs.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Thanks for sharing your experience and the helpful tips you have learned. Glad you pointed out that stage fright is normal; it is not a disqualifier.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 2 years ago from Northern California, USA Author

Thank you for your response, billybuc. It means a lot. Yes, stage fright has plagued me for many years, and as you say, confidence increases with time. After four years of singing in front of people, I still have stage fright, only now it isn't as pronounced.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great suggestions from the voice of experience, and that's a voice I'll always listen to. I've gone through this over the years. Happily, confidence does increase with time and the amount of exposure, but still today I'm sure I would get butterflies at the very least.

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