by Liza Williams
Do you have a stage appearance lined up? Perhaps you’re preparing for a stand-up comedy gig, or a piano solo or a role in a play. Good for you, whatever your specialism may be! But how are your nerves? It’s a thrill to stand in the spotlight before an audience, but as time draws near, nerves can set in, and there’s nothing worse than jitters for spoiling a performance. But here are some practical tips and strategies for getting that stage fright under control, and maintaining calm control throughout.
1. Visualize your performance
The biggest problem that feeds anxiety happens to be the series of negative thought patterns that may constantly occupy your mind. Therefore, it is my recommendation that you visualize yourself having a successful, confident performance. Then visualize not only the applause, but how your performance will enrich their lives.
2. Do warm-ups
On performance day, loosen up with warm-up exercises. Include breathing, arm and leg swings, sit-ups, pull-ups, wrist and ankle shakes, finger and toe wriggles and gentle neck turns. Stretch high and bend low to get the circulation flowing. Hum along, to hear the reassuring power in your voice. With a toned-up body and strong pulse, any nerves will fade and you’ll feel firmly in control.
3. Prepare and rehearse
Make time through the weeks before your performance for thorough preparation. At least one of your practice runs should be a full dress rehearsal, down to microphone, make-up and fancy shoes. Draw the blinds for privacy and pretend they are your audience, or invite friends to play the role and ask them for feedback.
4. Sort practicalities
Be on top of arrangements and logistics. This will ensure everything runs smoothly on the day, and will help you feel in control. Check directions to the venue, and contact details for your host, boss or colleagues. Arrange requisite transport and accommodation and check for possible delays. If providing your own outfit, try it on well in advance, checking that it’s comfortable, secure and clean.
You’ll want to be fresh in mind and body for your performance, especially if you’re likely to have nerves to contend with, so get as much sleep and relaxation as you can in the days preceding it. Go to bed early for at least two nights beforehand, to counteract any possible insomnia the night before. Take a nap a little before setting off, for extra relaxation and energy.
Being strong and fit will make you feel on top of your challenge. Your fitness will also help you look good, which will raise your confidence again, so take plenty of exercise through preceding weeks, avoiding risk of pulled muscles or other injuries. Exercise outdoors to fuel brain and body with oxygen for an added sense of serenity. Being outside in the environment will also help you see the bigger picture and get little worries into perspective. A final breather just before the show will fire up your spirit and blast any lingering nerves.
7. Allow time
Keep your event day as clear as possible. Plan the day’s schedule to allow plenty of time for eating, resting, bathing, dressing, traveling, warming up and anything else involved. Your well-spaced points of action will ensure an unruffled lead-up to your appearance.
8. Eat and drink
Eat well through the run-up to your big day. When it arrives, take a full, hot, nourishing meal about four hours beforehand, with plenty of fluid, avoiding alcohol. A high-energy snack an hour ahead of your slot will top up verve and confidence. Take some bottled water in case of a dry mouth, and a hot drink to melt any last-minute tension.
Take a luxuriously long, hot bath or shower well before setting off, allowing time for drying and styling hair, dressing, applying any make-up and seeing to any last-minute matters. A hot soak will do marvels for any jitters.
10. Skim your material
On arrival, fix yourself for a few minutes of privacy to go over your performance. With so many practicalities through the day, you can feel out of touch with your work by this point, but a brief glance or practice will bring it back in a flash.
With careful planning, your nerves — if you have any — will never get above the parapet. Nerves can sometimes spring up even during an act, if you let them, but a steady pace and focus will win out. Above all, enjoy yourself. If you’re in your element, you can bet your audience will be. In other words, if you have fun, the audience will have fun!
About Liza Williams
I’m a well-published writer of “how to” articles for teaching and parenting magazines in the UK (under a different name), also writing for national newspapers lately. I’m interested in many subjects, especially the arts, country life, exercise, healthy living, beauty, aging, child care, education, travel, cooking and self improvement. I thoroughly enjoy researching different topics and choosing what to say about them for my Constant Content articles. I’m also a published children’s poet, with about 150 poems in anthologies and magazines for youngsters in the UK, the USA and Australia. As an English graduate (from Exeter University, Devon, England), I’ve always been at home with words.