By Liz Peterson - February 07, 2022
Are you terrified of going on stage? Does standing in front of people fill you with fear? You’re not alone. Stage fright, also known as performance anxiety, is a feeling experienced by millions of people. In fact, some of the world’s most successful public speakers and artists struggle with stage fright, like Adele, Lady Gaga, and comedian Norm MacDonald.
In one survey, Americans reported public speaking as their #1 fear – ahead of flying, financial ruin, sickness, and even death.
Conquering this paralyzing condition is possible, however. You don’t need to let stage fright set you back in your career or interests. Learning how to get over stage fright can help boost your self-esteem and self-confidence. It might even give you a kickstart in your career. After all, there’s no substitute for confidence.
In this article, we’ll explore how to overcome stage fright using some tried and tested techniques. So, if you’re one of the 70 to 75 percent of people with some form of stage fright, don’t let it rule your life. Learn how to get over stage fright below.
Stage fright or performance anxiety is a lot like other forms of anxiety. Most of us can probably remember a few of the symptoms: dry mouth, trembling legs, heart pounding. The symptoms are as bad as the feeling itself. It’s enough to give you anxiety just thinking about it.
The stress of being the center of attention is causing your body’s “fight-or-flight” mechanism to kick in. You might not be in real danger. But your body can’t tell the difference.
Common symptoms of stage fright include:
If you experience any of the symptoms, you’ve got performance anxiety. Don’t panic – there are plenty of things you can do to help.
The first step in knowing how to overcome stage fright is understanding the cause. According to Forbes Magazine, there are three key reasons for stage fright:
Ironically, this fear of how we’re seen or what others think often leads us to look worse, not better, in the eyes of others. Think about dancing. Who looks better? The person who awkwardly moves side to side on the dancefloor? Or the person who gives it their all even if they look a little silly? The latter, of course: confidence is king.
Learning how to overcome stage fright might seem as daunting as the task itself. We run from our fears, after all. But there are several simple but practical tips to alleviating your worry.
Nothing brings on anxiety like being unprepared. As John Wooden, the legendary American basketball coach and player, said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
If you’re giving a speech, practice it again and again and again… and once more for good luck. That way, when you get on stage, it’s ingrained in your mind. Even nerves can’t shake it. Then when you start, you’ll slip back into the rhythm like before.
When we’re anxious, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Biologically, this drops the carbon dioxide in our blood, making us feel lightheaded and dizzy.
Stop yourself. Take a deep breath. And then begin to breathe using your diaphragm, i.e., into your stomach. Not only will this calm you down, but it also provides a rhythm from which to speak, sing, act, or play.
Fear of failure is perhaps the surest recipe for failure. As George S. Patton Jr put it: “When there is fear of failure, there will be failure.” Don’t fear it. Know that you’ve prepared and you’re going to be fine. Don’t focus on failure; visualize success.
The audience wants you to succeed. Indeed, this shift of focus can help too. When you put the audience’s enjoyment first, you shed your own anxiety. It’s not about you; it’s about them.
Inside, you’re a bag of nerves – who cares? Smile and keep calm. No one will know any different. Control your body language – for example, stand up straight and open your chest. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, and your head held high.
You’ll be amazed how much a smile and a strong posture can fill you with confidence. It also has the added benefit of getting the audience to smile back.
And if you do slip up – it’s not the end of the world. Pause. Recollect your thoughts. And then carry on; no one will notice anything.
Coffee. Tea. Alcohol. Sugar. These are the worst foods you can eat or drink for stage fright. Caffeine will increase your heart rate, worsening the feeling of anxiety. Meanwhile, alcohol lowers your mood.
Instead, opt for a healthy, low-fat meal (alongside some complex carbohydrates). Think whole-grain pasta, soup, or a bean and rice burrito. It’s important to have enough energy to keep going – as anxiety can be draining.
Forget about the crowd. It doesn’t matter if you’re public speaking or playing a big game. Find a friendly face – ideally, someone you care about – and focus on them. They’re here to support you. They want you to succeed. Imagine it’s just you and them. By narrowing your focus, you can stop yourself getting overwhelmed by large crowds.
Need help with overcoming stage fright and the fear of public speaking? Contact Speech and Voice Enterprises today and learn about our online 2-Day Public Speaking Seminars, accent reduction, voice improvement training, and more online public speaking courses today!