I’ll never forget the night I walked onto my biggest fear for the first time in my life–yes, the stage. It was on a hot summer Miami, FL night and there were all of 30 or so people in the room on open mike night. My palms were flooded and I had no idea how I was going to keep my fretting fingers from getting stuck on the first chord of my fairly new Takamine acoustic guitar.
I had practiced my three song set for two weeks straight, and I had a good feeling about the first song I would play but I was still unsure about the other two songs–I felt they were merely O.K.
I stepped onto the back of the stage with my knees almost buckling from the terror even though I had downed two Bud Lights 20 minutes earlier upon a friend’s recommendation in a last ditch attempt to ease my nerves. The butterflies in my stomach were tugging hard on my heart strings saying, “You’re still not ready, you knucklehead!”
Then, the M.C. called out my name! I found myself standing in front of the half-baked, eager crowd, knowing full well they had booed an act earlier and they weren’t in the mood for any more wannabe singer-songwriters. I could literally picture big, plump tomatoes bursting in my face and a big juicy one entering my guitar’s sound hole!
I tried everything I had researched to calm myself down while I plugged in my electric-acoustic guitar into the sound system. I imagined the audience was naked, but that didn’t work because there was a really good-looking girl in the front row staring at me intently as if to say, “C’mon dude, get it over with!”
I tried slow, deep breathing exercises but I felt like I would pass out if I didn’t resume normal breathing. I visualized, if only for a brief moment, the audience clapping with joy and approval, but the clapping in my head was quickly drowned out by the possibility of forgetting the words of the songs and failing miserably.
Finally, I began my first song and although my nerves were in full force, I managed to sing the song very well from beginning to end without any obvious flaws, or so they said! I can tell you this: I had never been more nervous in my life but I got through it. The audience actually clapped hard after the first song. The other two songs received a lukewarm reception in comparison and I learned some valuable lessons that night which I still practice today in order to ease stage fright:
1. Accept the fact that it’s normal to be nervous before and during a performance and that it lessens with every performance as long as you prepare yourself by following the tip described in #2. Know that there are many well-known entertainers who still experience some degree of stage fright. The difference is, they’ve learned how to channel their anxiety in a positive way through practice and experience! You have to be patient.
2. Practice at improving your songwriting and playing ability, and more importantly, rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse until you feel supreme confidence in your music sets before playing them in public. This is the quickest route to conquering stage fright.
The more confident you are, the less nervous you will be.