The term stage fright quickly brings to mind a picture of mounting a stage – which in itself doubles the anxiety. Stage fright can however describe a situation of anxiety where an intending speaker or presenter anticipates a situation of interaction with others. Some others get anxious just from the thought of being in front of a camera.
This means that apart from the popular picture of stage appearance as a cause of anxiety, the mere thought of interacting with another being or even having the spotlight on one can be regarded as stage fright – it also goes by the term PERFORMANCE ANXIETY.
There is no industry exception to experiencing stage fright, neither does experience nor number of appearances; however, its causes stem from similar ideas, where the intending performer has gone through the entire event in his head with a fright process that goes something like;
- Anticipation: in this stage, there is the first notion of mixed feeling; excitement to be addressing or performing for an audience, which quickly moves to a fear of being inadequate
- Avoidance: for some people, this is their first stage of anxiety, as the idea of engaging a crowd or the camera puts them off, so they will rather not do the task, while some others having conjured a picture of inadequacy and a negative performance they would rather want to opt out.
- Panic: having decided go ahead with performing, this stage is about anxiety lurking in the corner of the mind and the moment, before one goes up, it produces a feeling of panic – but here, there is no going back, except you choose to run out of the stage.
- Appraisal Anxiety: this is the nervousness that a performer feels just after presenting – it is a manner of going over the presentation in your mind and trying to rate how good it was.
There are different causes of stage fright, from the simple action of unpreparedness to deeper issues of mindset problems such as; negative perceptions, beliefs, thoughts, images, and predictions related to public performance.
There is also a thin line between the usefulness of performance anxiety to its deadliness – as, the same thought which can drive one performer to a poor performance, can serve as stimulus to a good performance for another.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, suggest the following tips to reduce stage fright:
- Shift the focus from yourself and your fear to your true purpose—contributing something of value to your audience.
- Stop scaring yourself with thoughts about what might go wrong. Instead, focus your attention on thoughts and images that are calming and reassuring.
- Refuse to think thoughts that create self-doubt and low confidence.
- Practice ways to calm and relax your mind and body, such as deep breathing, relaxation exercises, yoga, and meditation.
- Exercise, eat well, and practice other healthful lifestyle habits. Try to limit caffeine, sugar, and alcohol as much as possible.
- Visualize your success: Always focus on your strength and ability to handle challenging situations.
- Prepare your material in advance and read it aloud to hear your voice.
- Make connections with your audience: Smile and greet people, thinking of them as friends rather than enemies.
- Stand or sit in a self-assured, confident posture. Remain warm and open and make eye contact.
- Give up trying to be perfect and know that it is OK to make mistakes. Be natural, be yourself.