Top Tips: Kill Those Nerves
So your hands are trembling, your palms are sweaty, your voice breaks. That’s it, it’s all over. NO!!! Pick yourself up and dust yourself off. If you just watched this year’s latest Super Bowl Halftime Show you probably saw Beyonce slightly stack it in her dance, but did she scratch the rest of the performance? Hell no, she just kept going. Keep reading to find out how to kill those nerves and how to get back up if you stumble.
Performance anxiety all starts in the brain. It can happen for nearly any activity: music, playing sports, acting, public speaking… In fact, the fear of public speaking alone is the world’s greatest phobia – it even surpasses phobia of death! So clearly it’s time for us to do something about it. Our bodies’ response is even similar to that of being placed under attack – we enter the “fight or flight” mode, with symptoms including a racing pulse, a dry mouth, trembling hands, sweating, and even sometimes nausea.
Confidence is Key
If you don’t have it, fake it until you make it! Put your hands on your hips and stand up straight – channel your inner Beyonce! Just standing in that power pose can even be enough to boost your confidence. Everyone has their own style, so do whatever you can to put yourself in “the confidence zone”. For me, I channel my inner Lady Gaga and go and act out scenes from some of her shows. I put heels on and do my lipstick and I get into character. Check out these confidence tips:
Get into Character
Getting into character really helps me kill those nerves. All you have to do is channel your inner idol and pretend to be them while getting ready. Act out some of their work, sing some of their songs, watch some of their videos. Go into a place where you can lock the door and unleash yourself, go all out! Have you ever heard the phrase, dance like nobody’s watching? Well, sing like nobody’s listening!
Relaxing is something you’re going to have to do if you want to kill those nerves. Breathing deeply from your diaphragm directly before your performance can relax you and slow down your heart rate. Research has shown regular practice of relaxation methods can help as well. Maybe it’s time to become a Yogi or even take up meditation?
Practise, Practise, Practise
Literally practise in front of the mirror – imagine yourself in front of people, standing at the front of your classroom or on a stage or even standing at the front of the conference room. Take every opportunity to practice in different scenarios, whether it be in front of your parents or even close friends… go to those open mic nights! Get experience and gain confidence. Remember not to focus on what will go wrong, rather focus on your positives and imagine your success. Always review yourself objectively, thinking about what went right and what you can improve on. The more you perform live for other people, the easier it gets.
Our view of our performance experiences can become so distorted that we reject any positive experiences and see our end performance results as ‘All or Nothing’. Instead of looking for only negative aspects of past performances, look for at least one positive to match each negative. Look back at your performances objectively, critically analyse and review them with balance. Look for the things that you did well and the things that need some more work and focus on one thing to improve on. As a beginner you’re not going to start out perfectly, you’re going to make mistakes, but you’re also going to improve. The more experience you have, the more you learn to control your nerves. I myself hate watching back the dodgy video recordings of my performances. As humans, we are our own harshest critics – we are constantly comparing ourselves to others and putting ourselves down. So, un-cloud your judgement, and look for the good in your past work and reframe your experience.
Stumbling & Recovery
Unfortunately things go wrong, technology fails, we stumble over our words, we forget things especially when put in the spotlight. The best thing to do is prepare! Do your homework and prepare for different situations and scenarios. For example, if your technology fails, do you have a backup? If it fails while you’re performing, how will you respond? Most of the time your audience actually doesn’t realise you’ve made a mistake. They don’t notice if you miss some lyrics, if you forget to read a paragraph of your speech or if you missed a few notes, but they do notice if you react badly. If you miss lyrics and then hold up a big sign by making a facial expression or apologising, people WILL notice. Information is read differently to how it is heard – act like you can’t believe how well this performance is going!
Connecting with the Audience
Picturing them naked or in their underwear is not going to help. Instead, really think about your audience. They want you to do well, and they will generally be very supportive. I find that audiences have just as much anxiety about reacting to music as performers do making the music. Think about being on the other side – have you ever been at a concert with friends and everyone is too shy and embarrassed to start dancing first? Just another form of performance anxiety, and it just goes to show we all feel it! The best thing to remember, is to keep a clear, loud voice, with good projection. (Aim for the back wall!)
Look at your audience, involve them. Make jokes with them, get them on your side. It’s the same as winning a friend over, you need to connect with them. You can use humour, stories or emotion (just like all good movies do!). Start with these things, that way you’ve captivated your audience’s attention from the beginning. As an artist, feel free to talk between your songs. This really helps me kill those nerves. This doesn’t mean every song, but make sure you include the audience in your sets. I guarantee you’ll have more people listening and keep more people awake.
Diet & Exercise
Having caffeine or sugar before a performance will dehydrate you and give you the shakes, especially if you’re already nervous. Stick to water, and have a banana – it will help with any pre-jitters. Working out can even give you a natural high which can last for up to 12 hours and give you some great positivity. This can really boost your confidence and play a big part in your performance!
In conclusion, remember that the audience only sees what you let them see. Even if on the inside you are dying of stage fright, show them confidence and they’ll believe you. Remember the good old phrase, “fake it until you make it”? These are words to live by. Go forth, practice these techniques and don’t be afraid to fail. Failing is the beginning of learning and improving. Kill those nerves!