One of the most frequently asked questions we get from artists is, “How do I deal with stage fright?”
Well, if you’re talking about full-on panic attacks, you’ll need the help and guidance of a professional counselor! But if you’re talking about the common nervousness most performers have, then I can offer some advice.
A lot of stage fright comes from being self-conscious onstage. You begin thinking about yourself – how you look, how you sound, what people are thinking of you – and when you’re thinking about yourself, you aren’t able to be concerned about your audience and how they are feeling.
In his book and DVDs, Live Music Producer Tom Jackson recounts his real-life experience with stage fright.
The short version is, he’s on tour with a band, and constantly nervous since they are booked to do 550 dates that year. He’s losing weight… he’s not sleeping well… he’s nervous and self-conscious all the time. And he has this conversation in a “moment with God”:
Please understand, there was no burning bush, I didn’t hear any audible voice, and no angels called my name. But like I said, I believe God’s spirit was speaking to mine:
“God, I’m nervous.”
He said, “What are you nervous about?” “I want people to like me.”
He said, “Are you likeable?”
“Yeah, I’m likeable.”
The trouble is our prejudices often get in the way of liking somebody. Once we get past silly things like hair, size, color, accents, and any other goofy prejudicial thing that keeps us separated from people, aren’t most people likeable? Once you get past me, I’m a pretty likeable guy. I knew I was likeable.
God answered me, “Is everybody going to like you?”
Tom finally admits why he’s scared to go on stage… “I want people to like me.” There it was – the root of it all.
Through a back-stage conversation with God and some soul-searching, Tom realized that he was likable — but, not everyone was going to like him. When he decided that he was okay with that, he was able to stop worrying about what people thought and step out onstage.
Wanting to be liked and accepted is universal. Who doesn’t want to be liked? I know before all the concerts I played, I wanted the same thing.
The reality is that everyone is not going to like us or our music. Did you know though, that all but about 3% of the audience comes to your shows wanting to like you? Pretty good odds I’d say! So, the sooner you come to terms with this, the sooner you can start to enjoy playing live.
The rest of your uneasiness can be eliminated by knowing what you’re going to do onstage, before the concert starts. Have you created moments that connect with the audience? Do you have a set list put together that flows well? Do you know what you’re going to say when you talk to the crowd?
If your show is thought out and rehearsed, you won’t need to be worried… you can just step on stage and enjoy the moment!