Stagefright | by Tom Mrazek

Whether you’re up in front of your class about to present a project to your peers or seconds away from appearing on stage, stage fright is a common occurrence to everyone. Now, you can’t focus on anything except the dawning fact that the situation is important, and you’re so, so afraid of messing up. These are some techniques you can use if you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming presentation/performance.

Here is one thing that people need to understand: stage fright isn’t a one-time thing. Stage fright is a fear that you’ll go through more often than necessary, and it is difficult to overcome. However, since stage fright stems from the fear of not performing/presenting at the best of your abilities and from getting judged from your mistakes, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you experience stage fright just before an important presentation, it shows that you care about the presentation and its outcome.

A technique you can use to get rid of that hypersensitive feeling of anxiety are breathing exercises, such as the 4-7-8 breathing count.  Created by Dr. Andrew Well, this breathing technique is usually employed to help people fall asleep. In this case, however, the calm feeling the technique gives you helps your nerves calm down, and overall achieve a sense of relaxation before your presentation. Even though the nervous feeling heightens your want for success, the anxiety you feel before makes you feel worse about the situation, so destroying the unnecessary adrenaline in your body before it compromises you is important.

Another tip is to rehearse your lines. Even though it seems obvious and a little bit redundant , confirming that you know what to do can bring ease to those who are afraid of completely blanking on a certain part. Repeating them in chronological order would help you remember the order of your lines and helps you stay in check for every word.. It is best to do this when you think you know all your lines, and just want to confirm them. Going back to the script may mess you up on stage. Additionally, the breathing technique gives you something else to focus on, and gets you to not think about how nervous you are.

The next part is to think about how good your performance will be. A subset of the “fake it ‘till you make it” behavior, thinking about how good you’ll be on stage would help you feel better. Worrying about messing up during the presentation may cause you to mess it up, as the adrenaline in your body would deem the lines you so meticulously memorised as ‘unimportant’ information, and thus not bring it to the front of your mind as you perform.

If all else fails, embrace your nervous energy on stage. Condense that energy into a little ball in your stomach, and when the time comes, release it during your performance. The nervous energy in your body will add a little spring to your step, volume to your voice, and more focus on your part as you anticipate each and every action you need to take. All in all, the energy you have will guarantee you a high quality performance.

Stage fright might be a menace to presenters and performers alike, but with these tips, you’ll stay grounded and calm.