Making Stage Fright Work For You

Postby questioneverything » Sun Apr 12, 2020 5:53 am

One question that is heard a lot is how to get rid of stage fright. Having had experience with both theatrical productions and public speaking in general, I would ask in return, why would you want to?

A better question to ask is how to master stage fright. Stage fright can actually be an asset when properly disciplined. What happens in stage fright is that the fight or flight instinct is engaged. The heart and respiration rate increase, adrenaline is released, and the production of various hormones increases. This is a necessary survival mechanism from our hunting and gathering days. It prepares our bodies to be able to function in a stressful situation and helps ensure our survival. Whereas some people view this as a liability when speaking, it can actually help us in that our reaction times quicken, our sensory acuity sharpens and we are able to more efficiently respond to changing situations, or better fine tune our presentation to match our audience's expectations. When we speak of "playing to our audience" or "gauging our audience" we are making those adjustments.

So how do we make this work for us, when we feel overwhelmed by our body's responses to this stress? Perhaps you've heard the old joke about pretending your audience is sitting in front of you in their underwear...don't laugh, it works! It's especially helpful when your audience is not a particularly friendly one. Visualizing them in this way minimizes their ability to intimidate.

One technique I have found especially useful when using a microphone is to focus on the microphone and deliberately fade your audience into the background. Doing this also gives the impression you are making eye contact, as you are not focusing down, as people do when they are afraid or intimidated.

Performing in a theatrical setting allows you to tap into a special advantage...you have the ability to hide behind your character. People have said to me, "Oh, I could never get up on stage and act in front of anyone." When I ask why, they say, "They'll laugh at me." My response is to tell them they're not laughing at them, the actor; they are laughing at the part they're playing. It's not YOU up there, it's your character. Any actor will tell you how liberating it is when they figure that out.

There are many tips and tricks one can use to tame the beast, but it's a beast you do well to keep around. Stage fright can either paralyze you, or it can keep you sharp. Once you become experienced working with it instead of trying to eliminate it, it can be a darned good friend.
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#1

Postby Candid » Sun Apr 12, 2020 7:16 am

Whereas some people view this as a liability when speaking, it can actually help us in that our reaction times quicken, our sensory acuity sharpens and we are able to more efficiently respond to changing situations, or better fine tune our presentation to match our audience's expectations.


So true, and what a great observation.

As one who's almost paralysed with fright when called upon to address an audience, I'll add that it feels so damned good when it's over. I've avoided it as much as possible all my life, but on the few occasions when I've been alone on stage facing rows of expectant faces, the experience has left me sky-high for hours afterwards.
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#2

Postby izzy95 » Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:51 pm

Gonna try this :)
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#3

Postby questioneverything » Mon Apr 13, 2020 7:13 pm

Like they say in the theater, "Break a leg." (good luck)

Let us know how it works for you! :)
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