Sweaty palms, racing thoughts, stuttering words, the deafening silence, the blinding lights. The term "Stage Fright" is actually quite young, as it was coined by Mark Twain in his novel "Adventures of Tom Sawyer". Mark Twain had been so plagued over the years by the idea of public speaking that he decided to make it come alive in the mind of what would become one of his most prolific characters. He describes it as "A ghastly stage-fright seized him, his legs quaked under him and he was like to choke. True, he had the manifest sympathy of the house but he had the house’s silence, too, which was even worse than its sympathy."
Even those who are not performers, your fellow family and friends, experience small doses of being faced with their fear of the public platform when it comes to public speaking - be it presenting for a class or for their colleagues. They may almost experience a more difficult version if this, as it happens so randomly and they are unable to face their fear on a regular basis, sometimes never being able to fully overcome it.
For those who are weighed down by fears of public speaking - one important thing to take into consideration is all of the "bandaid behavior" that you may be doing to mask this situation. For example, these days, many people have anti-anxiety prescription pills, or feel the need to drink before a show in order to cope. However, all this does is mask the underlying problem. This can then bloom into newer and even bigger problems.
In our opinion, the best way to combat stage fright is to test out a few options and see what works best for you. First, we'd suggest being real and completely honest with yourself. You need to recognize the "irrationality" of the fear. What's the worst that could happen? Nothing life threatening comes from forgetting a lyric or two.
It's also important to remember that your audience, be it underneath the bright lights or the audience that is sitting on their comfy couch watching from home - they are all human. They all make mistakes and nobody is perfect. Perfection is impossible. It's the expectation of perfection that has us terrified of making a mistake.
Exercise is another wonderful option. A hot yoga class the morning of, or getting a few extra hours of sleep, or a quick jog around the block - it's important to pay attention to your body & brain's natural responses and learn to calm your system down. Recognize your thoughts and seperate yourself from them. Control your breathing.
Often times, helping another person with a similar issue, is a way to overcome your own issues. Perhaps you can find a friend who has stage fright and you can both plan to play out once a week, knowing that secretly you are both terrified, slowly overcoming the withering frights.
At the end of the day - You've got to be able to laugh off whatever happens, especially if you're going to be in the public eye as a profession, because, just as they do, unexpected things always will happen.
- K.O'Neil, PitStop Musicians