It can be a terrifying experience to be presented with a large number of people, all staring at you, waiting for you to perform for them. Stage fright, also known as performance anxiety, can manifest in several different ways. For anyone delivering speeches, or presentation, or performances, learning how to overcome stage fright is an important skill.
Stage fright can be crippling
If your symptoms are severe, they can interfere with your ability to perform. When it does, the fear is re-enforced, making the anxiety worse. It can be a death spiral. Many performers have had to learn how to overcome stage fright. Some common symptoms of stage fright include:
- Physical symptoms: Stage fright can cause physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, dry mouth, and nausea. All can be devastating for a brass player, especially dry mouth.
- Cognitive symptoms: Performance anxiety can also cause cognitive symptoms such as negative self-talk, racing thoughts, and difficulty concentrating. When performing, it can seem like you are sight-reading a well-rehearsed piece.
- Emotional symptoms: You may also experience emotional symptoms such as fear, anxiety, nervousness, and self-doubt. If a performer looks frightened on stage, an audience will not be relaxed and will probably be expecting you to stumble.
- Behavioral symptoms: In some cases, stage fright can cause behavioral symptoms such as avoidance of performance situations, stuttering or stumbling over words, and difficulty making eye contact with the audience. If you’re not actively engaging an audience, they will lose engagement with you.
- Psychological symptoms: Performance anxiety can also have long-term psychological effects, such as reduced self-confidence, self-esteem, and increased fear of future performance situations. Anxiety feeds fear.
So, how to overcome stage fright?
It’s normal to feel nervous when you are performing in front of a large audience, even if you are well-prepared. However, there are some additional strategies you can use to manage your anxiety in this situation:
Gradually expose yourself to performing in front of larger audiences over time. Start with smaller groups and gradually work your way up to larger audiences.
Focus on individuals
Instead of seeing the audience as a whole, try to focus on individual faces in the audience. This can make it feel like you are speaking to a group of individuals rather than a large crowd.
Use visualization techniques
Visualize yourself performing in front of a large audience and doing well. This can help you feel more confident and less anxious.
Use positive affirmations
Repeat positive affirmations to yourself before your performance, such as “I am confident and capable” or “I can handle this.”
Practice relaxation techniques
Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. These techniques can help you relax and reduce anxiety.
Anyone can learn how to overcome stage fright
Remember, it’s normal to feel nervous when performing in front of a large audience, but with practice and these strategies, you can manage your anxiety and deliver a great performance.
This article on Performing Music discusses this topic in more depth.