Being on stage and feeling both your legs and arms shaking is a nightmare. There are hundreds of people staring at you and waiting for you to do something. No matter how hard you try, your throat is clogged, and you are dead frozen on the spot.
What is this feeling? This is stage fright and is a common fear that most people experience either before or during the performance. Even cast members or television stars experience stage fright. So, how do you overcome stage fright?
What Is Stage Fright?
Stage fright or performance anxiety is the anxious feeling you have when speaking or performing in front of an audience. It is not limited to activities rendered on an actual stage.
Stage fright is the most commonly mentioned fear, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Even professional musicians, athletes, and actors experience moments of insecurity and get nervous.
What Is the Fear of Public Speaking?
Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. This phobia applies to all public appearances and performances. Due to glossophobia, you can develop public speaking anxiety, which can make you feel miserable.
Every time you begin your presentation, you expect and accept that you will feel anxious. This limits your potential in improving your career. You begin to have self-doubt and lose your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Many professional performers keep this fear a secret because they feel embarrassed about it. Stage fright is not really a phobia, but it can be categorized as a subset of glossophobia.
How Does Performance Anxiety Happen?
Whenever you feel you could be judged for your stage performance, stage fright can be triggered. You can experience stage fright either in front of large audiences, small groups, intimate gatherings, or one-on-one settings.
You can have stage fright during speeches or toasts, job interviews, class presentations, work meetings, engaging with customers, and having small talk with strangers.
Signs of Stage Fright
Anticipating that you will be standing in front of a crowd can make you feel nervous days before the event. In other words, your body reacts and the symptoms of stage fright become noticeable and persistent as the event draws near. Here are the common symptoms of stage fright:
- Narrowed vision
- Dry mouth and tight throat
- Trembling hands, knees, lips, and voice
- Sweaty and cold hands and feet
- Racing pulse and rapid breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
- The uneasy feeling in your stomach
- Desiring to leave the venue
- Withdrawal from others
Causes of Stage Fright
You have to determine the cause of your stage fright if you want to overcome it. Here are the common causes of stage fright:
If you can’t remember the first thing you must do when you stand on stage, you will surely be nervous and anxious. You must allow enough time for practice every single day before your performance.
Not Having Enough Experience
If you don’t have enough performing experience, you are likely to have performance anxiety. Everyone has their fair share of first-time experiences. Just do your best for your first performance. Your succeeding performances will surely get better.
Fear of Failure
Every time you step on stage, there is always a possibility of committing a mistake. Don’t let fear of failure shadow you. Also, remember that mistakes can be avoided when you have prepared well.
Stage fright is believed to be linked to social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder is a condition based on rejection and fear of being judged. People who do not love speaking in public are most likely to have pre-existing anxiety.
You become more anxious if the event is of high stakes. So many things are on the line. You have to bring your A-game to the performance. If you have practiced and prepared well for the performance, you have nothing to worry about.
Is Treatment Possible for Stage Fright?
There is no definite cure for stage fright. However, there are ways to overcome stage fright and learn to be confident and less stressed if you are in front of many people.
Tips on Conquering Stage Fright
In overcoming stage fright, you need to be intentional about it, make an effort, and keep practicing. Here are the following tips on how you can overcome your own stage fright:
Seek Help From a Therapist
A therapist will help you discover the main cause of your stage fright and formulate a therapy plan to address this. A therapist can recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In severe cases, a therapist can refer you to a psychiatrist for a medical prescription.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
To do a great job speaking in public, you need to practice familiarizing yourself with your material. The best tip is to keep practicing until you feel confident enough and your movements are calm and natural.
You can first practice in front of a mirror for you to notice your mannerisms and feel more comfortable with your body. You can also practice in front of people who you trust, like your best friend. Or practice in front of a group like your family. They will give you their support and constructive feedback.
Have a Positive Mantra
Having a good mantra before you step in front of people is a good motivator. Giving yourself a positive affirmation or pep talk before your performance helps in reducing stage fright.
You should avoid the negative talk as this is the worst-case scenario. Don’t let your inner critic get the best of you. Here are positive mantras that you can use:
- I can control my nervousness. I am confident.
- This performance will last for 30 minutes. I can manage this.
- The audience will love me, and I will nail this performance!
If you want your nerves to go away before your presentation, you have to channel your nervous energy somewhere else. Resisting and trying to make the nerves go away will only make it worse.
Apply Positive Visualization
Positive visualization is when you role-play what you need to do while on stage. Doing positive visualization helped people perform better and become more confident on stage.
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and imagine that your performance on stage is going well. What do you feel? Did your audience enjoy it? You should visualize your success. Having a positive visualization can lessen your stress before the performance date.
Learn Deep Breathing Techniques
When you feel tense, it is best to take deep breaths several times until you feel better. Taking a deep breath helps your body calm down from its fight or flight response.
Breathing deeply counteracts the adrenaline produced by the body when it senses danger. This also helps decrease your body’s heart rate and blood pressure.
Limit Caffeine Intake and Other Mood-Altering Substances
Most people who are anxious would drink coffee or alcoholic beverages to take the edge off. It is best not to take these beverages minutes before you step on stage. These beverages can worsen your nerves and anxiety. Instead, you can drink water and eat a healthy snack to boost your energy.
Focus On What You Have to Do on Stage
Remember, audiences come because they want to learn something, be entertained, or find out what you can offer them. So don’t overthink your stage fright thinking that people come only to see you.
Focus on your material and craft. Some audience members may notice slight anxiety on your end, but that won’t matter if they are learning something and are entertained.
Do What Works for You
Stick with what you have constantly been doing when you are on stage. Doing this lessens your risk of feeling nervous and the possibility of making a mistake.
If you must make certain adjustments to your presentation, you can implement the changes one at a time. Avoid so many changes in your presentation. This might cause confusion and make you nervous. Thus, you are making yourself vulnerable to mistakes.
Be Exposed to Public Engagements Often
You have to practice your material and hone your skills if you want to have self-mastery. You can volunteer to lead the group presentation at work or sit at the front row seat during class.
Consistently exposing yourself to these opportunities gradually frees you from uncertainty and excess nerves.
After every stage of performance or public engagement, spare some time to reflect on your performance. Identify the accomplishments of your performance, big or small. This is a good way for you to improve yourself, learn from your mistakes, and do better next time.
Conquer the Stage
A bit of stage fright is a good thing. You can use that extra adrenaline and excitement to fuel your performance. This drives you to give your best performance. If you think your stage fright is causing you trouble and you are unable to perform well, it is time to seek professional help.
Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) offers therapy designed to fit your personal needs. KCC can also link you to a support group. KCC will guide you on developing positive coping skills that can help you deal with stage fright.
KCC will help you be more confident on stage or off stage. KCC will be your practice audience who will support you and give you constructive feedback for your improvement. Go ahead, get on that stage, and break a leg!