Even if you didn’t watch the Grammys the other night, you’ve no doubt seen clips of Adele launching into her George Michael tribute, “Fast Love.”
There she was on stage. Realizing she was off-key. Stopping. Swearing. Apologizing: “I’m sorry for swearing, and I’m sorry for starting again. Can we please start it again? I’m sorry, I can’t mess this up for him.”
And, indeed, she started the song over again.
What the heck happened to her? She blamed it on a bad case of nerves. Adele famously suffers from stage fright so severe she’d be happy to stick the studio and skip live performances altogether.
Maybe you can relate? You don’t have to be on a literal stage to have what they call stage fright; a lot of people, maybe even most people, get nervous in front of an audience. It’s natural to be concerned about how people are judging us. It’s human to want acceptance.
If you’d rather have a root canal than get up in front of people and talk, there are a few things you can do to make it easier on yourself.
Prepare Ahead of Time
- Practice – your talk, your song, whatever it is. The more familiar you are with your material the more you can relax in front of an audience. Anxiety can cause a brain cramp; you want to be as fluid as possible and practice will help.
- Stay away from stimulants. A steaming cup of coffee is not your best bet before a talk.
- Do eat something healthy, but probably not right before you take the stage. Keep it light.
- Power Pose! Spend two minutes standing like Wonder Woman with your shoulders back and your head up, taking up as much space as you possibly can. Or do the victory stance, with your arms up in a V as if you just crossed the finish line. Those two minutes can change your body chemistry, increasing testosterone (think dominance and confidence) and decreasing cortisol—the stress hormone.
In the Moment
- BE in the moment. Ground yourself and sense your feet on the floor. Get Present.
- Use the “nervous energy”—it really is Allow it to flow through you and connect you with the people listening to you.
- Forget about looking over the tops of their heads or imagining your audience naked. Eye contact is just that—contact with your listeners. That human connection is a good thing for them and for you.
- So make eye contact with each individual. Eyes to eyes and heart to heart; once that connection is made nervousness and judgement fade.
- Movement is magic. Don’t stay stuck in one spot, and for heaven’s sake don’t plant yourself behind a podium. Use gestures and whole-body-movement to keep your audience engaged and your energy flowing.
- Remember that the audience is on your side; they want you to do well.
If Things Go South
- Roll with it. Make it part of the show.
- Realize that most people will support you. Need proof? Check out the Tweets after Adele goofed up in front of a huge live audience and millions more watching on TV.
“Your realness made that moment even more special. That took so much guts, George would have been so proud. @Adele” – Music producer, singer and DJ Skrillex
“#Adele taught us all a great lesson just now. If it’s not right? START OVER AND NAIL IT! And she did. Love you, girl.” – Bette Midler (I don’t need to tell you who she is, do I?)
All that and a standing ovation too, for what seemed like an on-stage snafu.
So there you go—a dozen decent ways to deal with stage fright, performance anxiety, well, let’s just call it energy. Post a comment below to let us know how you’re going to put these into practice.