How to Conquer Stage Fright!
- Published Date: September 13, 2019
Glossophobia. No, it’s not a new type of paint. It’s the fear of public speaking – or, in other words, stage fright.
It’s one of the most common fears. Even very experienced performers get stage fright, so it’s not surprising that children do as well.
“I get stage fright and gremlins in my head saying: ‘You’re going to forget your lines’.” – Alan Rickman
The fear of performing or public speaking can hold children back from achieving so much – creatively, personally and, further down the line, professionally – and a lot of its root causes develop at an early age.
Even outside of the performing arts, there are so many situations where children can suffer from stage fright – reading in assembly or giving a presentation to the rest of the class, for example. Similarly, good public speaking is a rare – and valued – skill.
Stage fright can be even worse when it’s in front of peers, people they know and see every day, and in the school environment which usually forms the basis of a child’s social world.
Here are some tips on how you can help your children – no matter their age – overcome stage fright or, hopefully, avoid it in the first place!
1. Teach them the power of a positive mindset
It’s easy to get drawn in to patterns of negative thinking, as an adult or as a child. Pessimism and low self-esteem feed into stage fright.
To counter these, it’s important for children who want to perform or speak publicly to learn how to concentrate on calming thoughts and resist negative, anxious ones. Knowing a few breathing techniques and exercises (usually taught in singing lessons) is useful too.
Children need to learn to not overthink about the audience or start second-guessing the audience’s reaction. They need to remember that they have something valuable to create or contribute to the world. The audience wouldn’t be in front of them otherwise; the audience want to hear what they’re saying (or acting, or singing!).
This is why it’s important children feel valued, that as they grow up they are given positive reinforcement and develop a voice and an identity as an individual. Confidence in speaking or performing comes from confidence in yourself, which needs to be built up from an early age.
2. Prepare and rehearse
The more confident they are in their material, the easier it is to have confidence in themselves. There are so many ways to support children in the lead up to a performance or speech, whether it’s running lines with them, letting them stay in the bathroom longer to practice monologues in the mirror, or just being their first enthusiastic audience of one.
The more practice they can have in front of audiences – whether that’s in school plays, choirs, Jigsaw shows, or just performing to family in the living room at home – the less embarrassing and anxiety-inducing it becomes.
3. Healthiness can help
Caffeine and sugary treats might provide an immediate rush, but these are soon followed by a crash.
Healthy eating, keeping active and good sleeping habits all set children up for success in front of an audience!
“I still suffer terribly from stage fright. I get sick with fear. Not every night, but at the beginning and on occasion – not necessarily when I’m expecting it. You just have to cope with it – take it on the chin and work through it, trying to use the adrenalin to perform.” – Helen Mirren
4. Realise that it’s OK to make mistakes!
Nobody’s perfect – not even Alan Rickman or Helen Mirren, and most of us aren’t them.
Making mistakes isn’t the end of the world. In public performing or speaking, it’s more important to express yourself than to have 100%, robotic accuracy. If someone on stage is enjoying themselves, chances are the audience will be too!
Jigsaw Performing Arts is dedicated to developing performance skills, promoting self-expression and building confidence. We offer performing arts classes for children aged between 3 – 18. Find your nearest school by entering your postcode into the search on our home page.