Freddie Mercury once said that he would get very nervous before any concert he had. This didn’t come from a novice performer but from a man constantly singing to full stadiums for a living!
It will come as a surprise to many, but even the very best and most experienced performers still have to deal with performance anxiety on a constant basis. It’s simply quite frightening to most of us as human beings to stand in front of others and potentially be prone to publicly and embarrassingly humiliating ourselves.
Fortunately, there are established ways of dealing with this, and the vast amount of amazing performances under high pressure around the world bear witness to their effectiveness.
Focus on taking very deep breaths, both before and during the performance.
Practice slowly. Even if you are performing the fastest piece in the world, practice slowly. It’s the only way of ensuring that you can be in control of all aspects of your performance.
When you start your performance, take a slower speed than the one you are used to. When we are nervous, we tend to do everything faster than we would normally do it so make your life easier and stay slow and cool.
If you have the chance, try to play for close friends before your performance. This is a great opportunity to have a taster of what the actual performance is going to feel like. Find a friend, a family member, or if you are a 7-year-old princess like I used to be, your dolls will be a great audience and your unconditional fans!
Chose a piece or song with which you are secure and confident, one on which you have worked enough. Never go to a performance feeling that you haven’t done enough to prepare.
Look the audience in the eyes! Make eye contact and smile to as many of them as possible. It’s always amazing to see how a bit of genuine human contact will soothe your nerves and make you feel at home on stage. If you do these without looking like a weirdo than that’s a bonus.
Stage rule: never stop. It doesn’t matter if you completely and utterly messed up, a performance is not the place for you to go back and try it again. Chances are that the audience won’t even notice that something went wrong, unless you give it away by putting your instrument down and bursting into tears.
Remember the tip about taking long breaths? Do it again.
Reassure yourself that the work you’ve put into the piece so far was solid and now you only have to play it once more in front of people and that’s it.
Take another deep breath.