And how pretending I am on the main stage at Glastonbury makes me perform better
I’ve been in bands for 25 years. I refused to learn to play an instrument as a child, and I can’t read sheet music, but one day, at age 17, I asked my parents for singing lessons, and the rest is history. My journey as a singer (and songwriter) has a lot in common with my journey as an entrepreneur. I have always been confident on the surface, but inside I can be a bag of nerves.
Still, over the years I have grown, learnt, developed, and have become a lot less worried about what other people think of me. After so many years, I know what my abilities are, and I know I can deliver. Both as a vocalist, and as a business coach. In this post I share some tips to perform like a boss.
Stage fright is still a thing, even after so many years, especially when singing a new song…or launching a new business offer. It’s back to having self-confidence, and believing in yourself. Knowing that you can, and that you’ve done it so many times before. We got to keep reminding ourselves.
When I was a little girl, I used to get nervous on stage too. A school performance, a musical, a show-and-tell. My mother used to sit in the audience, smiling at me, and giving me her loving “don’t worry, you are doing great, Nina” look, which would give me that extra bit of confidence to keep going – and also relax into it. Nowadays my mother lives too far away to be my pep talk coach in the audience, but I often still imagine her being there and spurring me on.
Fear of judgement and making a fool of yourself
My biggest fear nowadays, when performing on stage? Losing my words, not remembering the way a song goes, the audience not being appreciative, making a fool of myself, and basically people thinking that we are a shit band. The old impostor syndrome. Also, as front woman, it is my job to chat in between songs, and since we are in Spain, this needs to happen in Spanish. Yup, add that to the mix of ‘oh-my-god-I-can’t-do-this’. But the excitement always wins from my nerves, and as soon as we start playing the first song, the nerves go, and I remember why I love it so much.
Now I can get annoyed with my nerves, or I could try and beat myself up about them, but I can also accept that being nervous before a performance is part of who I am. In fact, being nervous gives me that extra bit of adrenaline to be focused and feel confident in front of an audience. It’s not pleasant, but getting annoyed about it will not help, let alone giving up.
There a few ways to calm the nerves, and feel confident in front of an audience. Try this before your next public speaking gig, or any other event you are terribly nervous for.
1. Look over the heads of the audience
When you are standing on stage, and you see a big group of people in the audience, all staring at you in anticipation, it can feel pretty overwhelming. Often, the look on their faces can be serious, which, in the past, I have mistaken for judgement. I thought they didn’t like what I was doing, and when that doubt creeps into your head…it’s Murphy’s Law: all downhill from there. You’ll forget your next line, you start stuttering, blushing, blood rushes to your head, your heart starts racing….and you lose it. Remember that a serious face does not mean they are judging you negatively. Also, to avoid locking eyes with a serious face, throwing you off your speech, pick a spot on the back wall, and look over the heads of the audience.
2. Imagine you’re doing a TEDx talk
Pretend you are at some great big event, not the small room you’re in. You’ll show up differently, for sure. I always pretend I am on the main stage of Glastonbury festival, with thousands of people expecting me to give an amazing show. I cannot let them down, they have paid good money to see me, and they are ready to have a great time! They don’t want to see some shy bag of nerves singing softly into the microphone. They want to be blown away!
Remember, when you’re feeling nervous yourself, that you have been invited onto that stage because people have faith in you, saw you perform elsewhere, heard good things about you, and want you to share your gift. You are TOTALLY capable. Now, go and do your thing, and stop playing small.
3. It’s not about you, it’s about them
Like I said before: it is about your audience, and much less about you. Of course, you want to have a good time, but in the end, it is your audience who are on the receiving end of whatever it is you are sharing. Before you go on stage, or into an important meeting, focus on the people who you are facing. What are their expectations? What did they come to the event for? How can you give them exactly what they want? By making it about their needs, you give yourself an aid and your job will be to fill that need. During the performance you can check in with yourself; is the audience still with me, am I giving them what they came for?
4. Practice out loud and get familiar with your own voice
Practice makes perfect. It’s an old saying, but it is very true in this case. The more you get out there and face your public speaking (or singing) fears, the less scary it becomes. Also, practice your words out loud at home, or while driving in the car. Doing this makes you get familiar with hearing your own voice, and figure out which lines flow, and which are perhaps too clunky. You can even practice your jokes. No stand-up comedian just comes up with theirs on the spot, they have all worked these things out at home.
5. Be like Hulk and do a big power roar before a show
Someone gave me this tip a few years back, and it works wonders! Right before showtime, you take yourself to a private space, the bathroom or a quiet corner somewhere, and you pretend you’re hulk. Yes, you read that right. You raise your arms in the air with balled fists and stand wide legged upright, making a power face. RRRRRAAAAAAAAARRRRR!!! Say out loud (or softly, but full of confidence):”I can do this! I am going to have a great performance!” The energy and mindset boost of a statement like this does miracles for your confidence on stage.
6. Trust yourself – and detach from the outcome
You’ve done all the practice, you’ve learnt your lines, you know who you’re facing, now go and enjoy yourself. Detach yourself from whatever the audience may think of you, and just deliver that amazing workshop, presentation, webinar, or gig. You’ve been doing this work for so long, you have so much expertise and experience, you are more that qualified to do this. Trust yourself, and have a wonderful time. Any little mistakes will only be noticed by yourself.
Go and deliver that talk, gig, or presentation, with your head held high, and with a smile on your face. You can do it!
Work with me
I am available for 1-to-1 coaching for creative entrepreneurs and coaches, and I would love to give you all the pep talk – and kicks up the backside – you need to show up as the person you were meant to be.
PS: if you want to check out my band, you can find it here: TREBOL