Stage fright is an acute episode of anxiety associated with a requirement to perform in front of others. The clinical term for this is glossophobia, or fear of public speaking, which can be generalized to a fear of public performing. Glossophobia is one of the most prevalent phobias. Even very confident, extroverted people can have difficulty with it. Others have what has been referred to as quiet power- they are introverted, and may appear timid, but come alive in front of a crowd. Introverts are subject to a great deal of misunderstanding. Many introverts are actually very good public speakers because they love talking about ideas. While speaking in front of others is anxiety provoking for many, it could be argued that singing, dancing, or acting can create even greater performance anxiety.
Stage fright can impair or end your hoped for career if it is not properly managed. There are people who are very good at drama, playing an instrument, singing, or speaking, but freeze up when called on to perform publicly.
Stage fright may be tied to a lack of confidence. Confidence can be cynically described as the beliefs you have about your ability until you find you can’t deliver. An example of confidence can be seen on programs such as American Idol, where aspiring singers do not always have the ability to match their confidence. What is much better is self-efficacy. This is your knowledge of what you can do based on preparation and past experience. The only way to improve your sense of self-efficacy is through practice. Know the material you are presenting, your lines, your moves, everything down to the last detail.
Focus on a small number of people
Most people find a small audience more manageable than a large one. You may find it useful to focus on a small number of people in the audience- make eye contact with friendly faces- people who are enjoying your performance.
Change perspective- feel like you are in charge of the room. All those people are there to see you. That can be exhilarating, and give you a sense of power and control.
Medication. Beta-blockers, also known as beta-adrenergic antagonists, are a class of medication that have long been used to mediate the effects of stage fright. These are medications that block excess adrenaline from reaching the heart, causing the heart to slow down. Respiration and blood pressure go down, and sweating decreases. The lack of emergency signals from your body can help you to relax, and perform. Beta-blockers should not produce drowsiness or impairment, especially if you have been taking them for a few weeks for your body to adapt to them. Some people do experience tiredness and need to nap when they first start taking them. Once you get used to them, you should be alert and clear-headed. It may actually enhance performance in activities that require fine motor skills, as everyone has a slight tremor from the beating of their heart. Since these medications slow your heartrate, this tremor can resolve, making you steadier.
Commentary by Dr. Carlo Carandang:
Stage fright is a fear of performing in front of people, and is a common phobia in the population. As with all phobias, the key to dealing with it is to expose yourself to performance situations in front of an audience. This may be too anxiety-provoking to start off with a live performance, so you might consider gradual desensitization, which is a graded exposure to feared performance situations, where you are exposed to less threatening forms of the feared performance situation. Once you are able to be exposed without significant anxiety, then you are exposed to a slightly higher anxiety-provoking performance situation. This is repeated until you are actually able to go up on stage live, and perform in from of people.