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Avoid Stage Fright

Updated on February 25, 2009

Stage Fright: Conquer it with Confidence

Stage fright is one of those fears we all feel at some time or another, whether or not we are professional performers. At some point, we need to run a meeting, give an oral presentation, or get up in front of a group and speak.

There are ways around it, no matter what age we are – and these tips will help kids and grownups alike in conquering the fears we can’t help but feel when we are suddenly center stage.

Remember that the audience wants to like you. As soon as you step in front of them, they are usually prepared to listen, to laugh, to be entertained or informed somehow. So keep in mind: you begin with a group of friendly faces, not hostility.

If you appear nervous, the audience will become uncomfortable. There’s a way around this: “fake it till you make it.” No matter how nervous you actually are, PRETEND that you aren’t, and the people around you will never know. This will keep the audience happy – and a room full of happy will calm you down.

It’s only in the rarest of cases that a person is thrust onstage, or in front of a crowd or group, with no time to prepare at all. Therefore, when you know you’ll be in front of people, your best armor is preparation, which will help you have confidence: the key ingredient to success.

If you’re acting, or singing, memorize your lines or your lyrics until they become not just second nature, but first nature to you. Practice so much and so often that no matter HOW nervous you feel when you step on stage, it will all come flooding back to you, and you will fall into what you know really well – your nervousness will fade as you go through what you know by heart.

If you’re giving a speech, DON’T memorize. It will seem too fake. Instead, go over (and over) your “talking points.” Get a set of index cards – or a sheet or two of paper, whichever makes you feel more comfortable – and outline a set of points you want to make. THEN: practice elaborating on those points – in front of the mirror, in front of friends, over and over again – until you can speak as naturally and comfortably as possible about those points.

Unless you need to wear a costume, wear something as comfortable as you can, so that you’re not distracted by what you’re wearing. Wear flat heels, a suit jacket that fits well, nothing too tight, and above all, try to feel like you look like a million bucks. That will help give you confidence, which is, I will repeat: the ultimate key to performing well.

Smile, even if you don’t feel like smiling. It makes you look friendly and keeps the audience on your side. A happy audience claps, is warm toward you, and again: builds your confidence, and helps you FEEL confident.

If you can, keep a bottle of water on hand. Hydration keeps you comfortable – and confident.

Keep telling yourself: you can DO this.

Above all, remember: once you get started, you are very likely to be surprised as you feel your stage fright slipping away, and find yourself actually enjoying yourself. Much of stage fright takes place in the weeks, days and moments PRIOR to the actual performance. If you’ve prepared, if you’ve bolstered your confidence, you are likely to perform well – and that’s where the fun is.

Elizabeth Williams Bushey in concert. Photo © Tom Bushey

Elizabeth Williams Bushey in concert. photo © Tom Bushey
Elizabeth Williams Bushey in concert. photo © Tom Bushey

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