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

Updated on March 23, 2019
MarleneB profile image

Marlene is a voice artist for commercials, training guides, and audiobooks. She is often sought and hired to narrate and produce memoirs.

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

Lucille Ball
Roseanne Barr
Kim Basinger
Delta Burke
Nicholas Cage
John Cougar Mellancamp
Mariah Carey
Johnny Depp
Aretha Franklin
Michael Jackson
Naomi Judd
Nicole Kidman
Donny Osmond
Winona Ryder
Barbara Streisand

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.

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

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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Marlene Bertrand


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