If you have a performance coming up, no matter what it is, from making a speech, to singing a solo or playing in an orchestra, you might be feeling a little bit nervous right now. There’s nothing unusual about this, I certainly am; many performers, some with years of experience, and novices alike, feel the pressure of a looming performance. Nerves can be debilitating, people can freeze up and forget their lines and it can also prevent us from enjoying the performances we’ve worked so hard to prepare for.
So what can we do to combat these nasty nerves and make life a little easier for ourselves in the lead up to a presentation, concert or recital? In this post I discuss some techniques to help us relax before and during a performance. I will be executing these techniques when performing in the near future myself - because to tell the truth I am feeling pretty nervous!
My choir, the Local Vocals, and my piano students are busy preparing themselves for an upcoming performance, our Springtime Showcase. As well as singing with the choir, several choir members are also singing solos and I have five piano students who have prepared a solo to play at the event. The following techniques (The 4 Ps) will hopefully help these particular performers prepare but they are equally applicable to anyone feeling nervous about any kind of appearance in front of an audience of any size.
In the lead up, try to think positively and imagine your performance going really well. Sit or lie still and try to see and hear your performance in your head, imagine how good you will feel stood with your friends in the choir, or how confident you will feel in front of the piano keys you know so well. Visualise your audience giving a standing ovation, picture your friends’ and family members’ smiling faces and try to imagine how good you will feel having given your successful performance. And then get excited about whatever it is you are preparing for!
Attend rehearsals and do some work at home in the run up to your event. If you are learning a piece of music, or singing a solo, try to give yourself chance to practise playing or singing in front of someone so the concert isn’t the first time you’ve ever done this. The more you practise in front of people the less nervous you will feel about performing (I remember my first ever concert singing in the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir, I was absolutely terrified!).
Think about things like going to the toilet before you’re due to start, dressing comfortably and not too warmly, giving yourself plenty of time to order your words or music beforehand so you are not flapping, putting words and music in a folder or on a board so it doesn’t fall off your stand during the show, arriving in plenty time and allowing for traffic en route or difficult parking situations. It may also help to consider what the worst case scenario is. What happens if you forget to come in or sing in the wrong place? If you’re in my choir, the worst case scenario is that I would look at you, probably raise my eyebrow, the rest of the choir might giggle and some of the audience members might notice that we’re sharing an ‘in-joke’. The world won’t end, the concert won’t be ruined and you probably learnt something!
Allow yourself to have some quiet time to relax before your performance. Perhaps sitting in a room by yourself, closing your eyes and taking some slow deep breaths for a few minutes will help. When you’re on stage, try to sit still and avoid fidgeting and no one will suspect you are nervous at all!
Remember The 4 Ps and try to keep in mind why you are nervous - you are nervous because you care about the outcome of this performance, because it’s important to you and because you have worked hard to prepare for it. These are also all reasons why you deserve to enjoy your performance!
Be positive, be prepared, be pragmatic and be peaceful.