Managing Stage Fright

Librarians certainly spend a lot of time on stage. We speak in front of audiences when we’re introducing a performer, working with a Teen Advisory Board or presenting at a PTA meeting. When the weekend rolls around many of us are in the spotlight in our civic groups, churches, music halls, choir pits, art shows, comedy clubs (you know who you are), ball fields…the list goes on. But have we overcome the stage fright many of us feel before standing up in front of parents, teachers, teens, colleagues, bosses, even friends? I certainly haven’t. All I have are two tips that I’ve been putting to frequent use: know your space and remember to breathe. Here’s my take on why these two remedies for the stomach butterflies work so well.

Ever notice that when you’re on your own turf you feel more confident in front of a crowd? There’s something about feeling familiar with your space that can lend support. If you need to speak before an audience, try to visit your venue ahead of time. Not only will knowing your route and where to park give you one less thing to worry about, but you’ll also get a sense of the room. If you need to present about the Summer Reading Program at a school you’ve never been to, ask to see the facilities ahead of time. How are the acoustics in the room? Should you use a microphone? Where is the good lighting? What distractions will be competing with you? Will the students have eaten lunch before you get there?

Once you learn about all the interesting challenges you’ll face as you speak in front of your audience, remember to practice your new breathing technique: breathing like a cat. A cat breathes deeply and fully into the lungs, and so do people when they’re relaxed. Nervous people (and cats, I’m sure) breathe shallowly into their chest. The more nervous we are, the less air we take in, which only aggravates our nerves and impedes the projection of our voice. So remember a resting cat and make pauses in your speech for these deep breaths (which can take place quickly.) Plan your breaths if you need to, and practice.

If you’ll be at the performer’s showcase today, think about how the presenters are managing their own nerves while you take in their performance. And please share your tips if you have any of your own!

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