Stage fright, nerves, performance anxiety, whatever you want to call it – is a reality for many situations and one that most people will experience at some stage in their life as they take on challenges. It may be on the sporting big stage, performing, your wedding ceremony, a conference presentation or simply undertaking public speaking.
I am not a big reality TV watcher, but in watching the auditions for X Factor, I saw some amazing talent and some first time performances that were both brilliant and memorable. None more memorable than the audition by Bella Ferraro who sang “Skinny Love”. The performance was mesmerizing, full of talent and confidence and the judges made comments like; “best ever first up audition” and “raising the bar to a new level”. Then a couple of weeks later in the Bootcamp, Bella suffers from nerves, forgets her lines and was lucky to get through.
So is there anything that you can do about stage fright or nerves. Well yes there is and it is not about being free of nerves or anxiety, but rather about being aware of the nerves and the role that they play in your performance, presentation or public speaking.
The Role Of Nerves
One of the key points in learning to control nerves, anxiety and fear around stretching your comfort zone, is to understand that these nerves do have a role to play in our lives and personal growth. Many people come to my workshops hoping that I can rid them of nerves and that they will never be nervous or anxious again before presenting to a group. Unfortunately, I cannot rid you of your nerves and anxiety as a speaker or performer and nor should I. But I can teach you how to control them and harness that nervous energy to tip you into your peak performance mode.
I know from experience and I teach you that you need to be nervous. You need to have that healthy level of nerves and anxiety that puts you into your peak performance mode. And indeed public speaking is in many ways a performance or a sport. When you are about to compete in a sporting event, a team grand final or an Olympic event, you can imagine that there will be nerves – and so there should. But you don’t want the nerves so high that you faint, false start, drop the baton, forget you lines or just freeze. But you don’t want the nerves to be so low that you come across uninterested, flat, blasé and you miss the starter’s gun because you are so slow to react. Instead you need your nerves in the middle, ready to respond, react and be in your peak performance mode.
A recent example of this was at the Olympic Games where Sally Pearson the gold medal winning hurdler said “I was nervous because it’s the Olympic Games. I am glad to have nerves today because if I don’t have nerves then I am not ready to race”. Are you ready to be in the race, to speak and to give the audience the energy that they deserve from you.
So for Bella, it is not about eliminating the nerves, but more about learning the role they have to play, bring them down to a healthy level and just recognizing that she is very good and worthy of this opportunity. If Ringo Star still gets stage fright after 40 odd years of performing and it takes him 10 to 15 minutes before feeling comfortable, then surely nerves is a normal part of any performance.