How to Overcome Stage Fright

Miami Vocal Lessonson October 18th, 2011No Comments

Most people don’t believe me when I tell them that I never get stage fright.   They tell me that everybody gets it.  It’s true that many – maybe most – singers get stage fright before a performance.  From opera to pop to rock, acclaimed artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Barbra Streisand, Rod Stewart and even Elvis Presley have all succumbed to it.

When Rod Stewart made his U.S. debut as the lead singer for the Jeff Beck Group in 1968, he was so nervous that he sang the entire opening song hiding behind a stack of speakers.  Carly Simon is said to have poked herself in the hand with safety pins before performing to help herself get past the jitters.  And Barbra Streisand was so distraught after forgetting the lyrics to one song during her 1967 live performance in Central Park that she stopped performing live for 27 years, fearing she would make the same mistake again.  Streisand is quoted as having said that, “Some performers really do well when they forget the words.  They forget the words all the time, but they somehow have humor about it.  I remember I didn’t have a sense of humor about it.  I was quite shocked.”

So what makes me so special?  Nothing.  I’m not a better singer than those who get frightened.  I’m not better prepared.    I don’t have better musicians backing me up, and the audiences who come to hear me aren’t any more accepting or forgiving.  In fact, I’ve been heckled by drunken air-guitarists sitting in the front row who want to put me in my place or impress their girlfriends more times than I care to mention.  I’ve gone onstage with the flu.  I’ve gone on stage on the verge of laryngitis.  No matter the circumstances, I don’t get nervous.

Why?  Because I refuse to let anyone or anything get in the way of my dream.   When I go onstage, I have a mission.  I want to be successful in reaching and moving my audience, and I expect that I will be – no matter what.  I may have a bad day – everyone does, and I am no exception.  Some of my performances are much better than others.  It doesn’t matter.  When I walk onto a stage, I own that room.  I visualize what I intend to make happen:  that every eye turn toward me and my music will take my audience exactly where I want them to go.

The key is confidence.   The audience takes its queues from the performer.  If they see you sweat, they know you are weak and insecure.   They see that you don’t believe yourself, so why should they?  Once they see your self-doubt, your stage fright becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Generally, one of two things can happen.  Best-case scenario, they lose interest in you and start talking to each other, checking their emails, or simply stop paying attention.  Worst-case scenario, they turn against you.  They came to be entertained, and watching someone hesitate and hold back just doesn’t cut it.

The best way to conquer stage fright is to stop thinking about yourself.    The audience isn’t looking for perfection.  In fact, perfection can be boring.   Whether you are a singer, an actor, an executive, a motivational speaker or anyone else who has to get up and address an audience, what matters most is that you tell your story and connect with your audience.

I came across a personal story recently on the internet written by a man named George Knight that I think can help give us perspective.   Knight was the MC at a dinner where Tom Landry, the legendary Dallas Cowboys coach, gave the keynote address to 300 people.  Landry is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  He played and coached in some of the most important games in NFL history.  He flew missions over Germany as a bomber pilot during World War II.  And even he suffers from stage fright almost every time he addresses an audience.

Noticing his sweaty palms and his clear nervousness before his speech, Knight asked him about it afterward, wanting to know how he overcomes it.  Landry explained,   “I remind myself of what I often told my players,” he said. “Walk through your fear with faith. And you never let the fear of failure become the cause of failure.”


So the next time you are about to perform, remember there is no need or place for being nervous.  Mistakes are ok.  It’s confidence that matters more.  You’re there to tell your story.  Not everyone will listen, and not everyone will like it.  It doesn’t matter.   Don’t ever apologize.  It’s your story, and only you can tell it.  Focus on what you want to achieve, and don’t let anyone or anything take your eye off your prize.   It is by pushing through your fear that you get to the next plateau as a professional, and as a human being.

This blog is brought to you by The Kramer Voice Company

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