Here's the reality: I'm no professional when it comes to calming nerves. I have performed my entire life and very often I still get nervous! Through my years of performing and experiencing the anxiety that comes with it though, I have learned a few helpful tips and tricks to doing so that have definitely make a big difference in just how nervous I get.
1. BE PREPARED. LIKE REALLY REALLY PREPARED.
All too often I have gone into performances still looking over my lyrics last minute to make sure I will get them right, only having run through my song with my accompanist once or twice before getting on stage. The stress that comes from being unprepared and still questioning if you know what you are doing minutes before getting up in front of a crowd to do it, is more than enough to make anyone want to run for the hills and never look back before a performance. KNOW YOUR STUFF. Run through it 10 - 100 times if you need to! Know your lyrics inside and out, get familiar with your accompanist, take the time to scope out the stage and the sound if possible beforehand, plan out your wardrobe, take water up with you... whatever you need to be comfortable, do it! Every effort will help.
2. PERFORM EVERY CHANCE YOU GET.
If performing makes you extremely nervous, the exact opposite of what you want to do is do it more often. In my experience however, the frequency at which I get up on stage correlates COMPLETELY with how nervous I am to be there. Push yourself to do it as often as possible. View every performance as one more learning opportunity under your belt. All of these opportunities add up and create someone professional who knows what they need, knows what their nervous habits are vocally, and understands exactly how to combat the nerves to showcase someone great at their craft. The more seriously you take yourself in your efforts to become better, the more seriously others will take you as well.
3. BREATHE. AND HAVE A GOOD TIME.
I once heard a story growing up about a mother who had told her daughter to make every effort she wanted in the morning before leaving the house to make herself look great for the day. I.e. Do your hair, fix your makeup, put on lip gloss, and don't feel vain for doing so... but once that is done and you leave the house, FORGET ABOUT IT. She told her daughter, "don't ogle every mirror you see checking yourself for flaws, don't obsess over smudges or worn off lip gloss. Do your best to prepare and then focus on enjoying yourself and accomplishing what each day would ask of you."
When you get on stage, take your time before you start. BREATHE. Collect yourself. And then FORGET ABOUT IT. Forget about stressing all the work that went into it, the nerves you have, and how you may look to the audience. CONNECT with your song, be there in the moment. The more than you commit to being mentally & emotionally present with your performance, in the minutes you have on stage, the better the performer you will be. Trust that you have put in the work needed to do a good job and ENJOY IT.
Whether these tips sound daunting or simple, I know that following them will lead you to being a better performer. Nothing great comes without some hard work though, and sometimes that means doing what you struggle with the most.
At my studios here in Centerville, Utah, we do hold Open Mic Nights monthly for any and all who may be interested in getting more experience on stage. This is something I offer to everyone, not just my students. To stay up to date with all of this information or to get answers for questions you might have, be sure to like and follow my facebook page.
or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.