You’ve been waiting for this moment—and deep down, you’re pretty excited.
But then, that nagging fear starts. Butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, heart about to leap out of your chest—you realize, you're nervous. You're having trouble focusing and suddenly you're flooded with every fear and doubt about all the things that could go wrong.
Stage fright impacts more musicians than you might think—and not just your first time on stage. This happens to seasoned musicians including some of the world’s biggest performers. The important to remember is that while there’s a lot you can do to mitigate your stage fright and learn to really enjoy the process, odds are you’re always going to get a little nervous going on stage. Everyone does. Consider that a gift—it means you care about what you’re doing.
That said, I also understand that you probably don’t want to feel like you’re going to be sick every time you take to the stage, so that’s why we’ve put together a few ways you can combat stage fright, and take back control of the stage.
Being nervous and being excited are actually...the same thing
I remember hearing author/speaker Simon Sinek talk about how he learned to turn his nerves into excitement and it completely changed the way I thought about everything.
He was watching the Olympics and he noticed that all the journalists asked the athletes the same question—"are you nervous"? And every time the athletes gave the exact same answer "No, I'm excited!”
As he explains, these athletes had learned to interpret what their body was telling them as excitement, not nerves. After all, what are the signs of nervousness? Your hands get clammy, you think about the future, your heart races? What are the signs of excitement? Your hands get clammy, you think about the future, your heart races…
The only difference was, they’d learned to interpret this as excitement—not nerves.
Since watching this video, I’ve actually tried it myself, and wouldn’t you know, it really does help. Whenever I get nervous (including before getting on stage myself) I'll say "this is exciting!" and then I'll remind myself why it's exciting. "You get to make someone's night better tonight" "Your song will mean a lot to someone” “You’re getting closer to your big goals.”
Try it next time. You might be surprised.
Practice really does make perfect
When I’m getting ready to speak on stage (not terribly dissimilar to performing) I practice...and I practice...and then I practice some more. By the time I’m on that stage I know what I’m going to say without ever having to look at my notes, and I have even timed every pause, inflection, and question.
In short, I’m extremely prepared and so, I feel less nervous.
This is true of everything. If you feel under-prepared, you’re going to be a lot more of a mess going into it (unless you’re one of those people who does better on a whim and then, more power to you!)
This isn’t a matter of “practice an extra hour a day” it’s a matter of “practice until you feel so confident that you know you’re going to nail it when you go on stage.” This includes the music of course, but it also includes everything else—the way you talk to your audience, the stories you might tell between songs, the way you invite your fans to come hang out at the merch booth after. It might feel silly to stand in your living room and practice inviting your invisible fans to hang out, but I’ll tell you what, when you get to the gig and you have to do that for real, you’re going to feel so much more comfortable and as a result, it’s going to sound (and feel) so much better.
Get out there and perform
In the end, the only way to get over stage fright is to get out there and do more of the thing that scares you. That kind of exposure therapy is crucial for moving forward. So, if the thought of getting on stage scares you, do more of it. Go to open mics, busk, play the tiny club that never has more than 5 attendees, just do whatever you have to do to get out there. It’s OK if you’re performing to a small audience at first (that’s probably even better) so that you can just work out the kinks and move forward.
In the end, you want to be in charge of that stage, and by being sure to over-prepare, manage your anxiety, and put it all into practice, you’re creating a stage presence that will keep your fans coming back for more.
We’re just getting started! If you’re looking for tips on increasing fan engagement then join me for my free Masterclass ‘How to gain your next 1,000 fans. 3 simple steps that lead to higher engagement, sold-out shows, and life-changing opportunities’.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR and the THRIVE Mentorship program—an online community that provides indie artists with affordable year-round mentoring from music industry experts, and much more. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.