How to be confident in front of a crowd
Confidence in front of a crowd doesn’t come easily to most of us – in fact the fear of public speaking (glossophobia) still tops the list of most common phobias in the world.
The good news is that it can be overcome. In a special series of blog posts, MIO teacher and singer Eleanor Rastall shares what she’s learned over years of performing and last week she explored the inner workings of anxiety and how we can use self-awareness to translate that stress into positive energy.
Whether your anxieties begin during a performance or weeks before, the possibility of change is in your hands.
Below are some ideas I have found useful in combating anxiety and I hope will help you to feel back in control of your performance. Explore and see what works for you.
1. Days/weeks before performance – practice, of both your instrument and performance scenarios. One of the problems with anxiety is that it can demotivate us, so we do less practice at the point where we should do more.
Try to acknowledge the demotivation and anxiety, hit it head on and just do some practice.
The amount that needs doing can feel overwhelming, so break the ice with a small amount: just five minutes before dinner; practising the two bars of a piece that are causing you problems; writing out the words of one song verse over lunch or on your commute.
Find small, efficient and doable things that fit into your day and then do them.
Five efficient minutes every day for a couple of weeks will do far more good than one three-hour session at the weekend and will help you feel more connected to your instrument and in control of your practice.
2. Immediately before performance – make time to prepare your instrument and body, and relax, focus, re-energise as suits you best.
I like to use a combination of physical stretches, ideas taken from yoga and meditation and breath exercises. I also try to avoid people before a performance – though I still struggle with feeling rude not engaging, it is much better for my vocal stamina and focus.
Explore your own ways of relaxing, warming up and focusing and keep flexible with this – sometimes you may have a whole green room to yourself and sometimes just a public toilet cubicle!
3. During the performance – allow yourself to breathe and take time. And in this case by ‘performance’ I mean from the minute you stand up to enter the performance space to the minute you sit down again at the end.
Take time to set up your space how you want it, engage with the audience and focus yourself. Breathe. If something goes wrong you will deal with it better if you are relaxed and focused when you begin.
And this brings me to my final point …
4. What, actually, is the point of performing? In my view, the point should always be to communicate something. A story, a feeling. Your job as a performer is to engage the audience and allow them to experience and emotionally connect with that story.
I find this very helpful to remember because it makes the performance about the audience not about me. Whatever I think of my voice and skill on any given day (and, believe me, it varies!), it doesn’t matter so long as my inner critic is not in control and the audience aren’t made aware of the critic’s presence!
So I don’t grimace if I make a mistake, look embarrassed or brush off applause if I feel I’ve done a less than good job, or feel that a word slip is the end of the world. A ‘mistake’ only matters if my reaction to it causes embarrassment or discomfort to the audience. (And if it doesn’t, the chances are that it will pass unnoticed or be forgotten very quickly.) Notice the things you want to change, by all means, but store them away for consideration after the performance.
5. So, to conclude this series, here’s a summary
– observe what physical and mental effect your nerves have on you;
– create safe spaces and practice performance opportunities to investigate the effect of your nerves;
– and use every performance to explore and find ways forward;
– treat the audience as your friend and make their comfort and enjoyment your primary objective.
Explore. Play. Breathe. Find your own path.
Thanks so much to Eleanor for these in-depth insights on how to overcome the natural anxieties so many of us face, and thereby optimise performance.
We’d love to know whether you’ve used any of Eleanor’s techniques – or indeed if you have any more to add!
If you would like to explore this further with Eleanor, our next Performance Confidence Classes in the City please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or to book a place (free to MIO members).
To contact Eleanor or for more information about her events and workshops please see www.eleanorrastall.co.uk.
If you’ve enjoyed this, do give our company page Music in Offices a follow, for more on music, work and the benefits available at all levels when we combine the two.