The Art of Battling Stage Fright

Written By: Anu Babuji
Photos by: Cathy Tan and Mike Feng

The feeling is universal: knees getting weak, butterflies in the stomach and every muscle tensing, all while anxiously waiting for your turn to get on stage and speak. Even though public speaking is possibly one of people’s biggest fears, many ISM students manage it with ease and confidence, and often thrive in such nerve-wracking environments.

The performing arts, such as singing, dancing, or drama, can be major sources of stage fright. During last week’s Battle of the Bands, for instance, the musicians mustered up enough courage to step up in front of hundreds of people, aware that they risked making fools of themselves in front of their peers. Furthermore, in the upcoming IASAS Cultural Convention, dozens of delegates will perform before judges, families, friends, and strangers. Even though our IASAS delegates are very talented, they are still human beings who might experience stage fright.

Although she had begun singing at a very young age and has had three years of vocal training, BOB Vocal Finalist and IASAS Choir participant, junior Malaika J., claims that “to this day [her stage fright] has been the same.” Though it has slowly started to fade away with greater age and experience, she still gets “super nervous before [she goes] on stage” and finds that she “cannot speak to anyone before [she performs].” However, “when [she goes] on stage [she blanks] out and just sings.” Having dealt with stage fright in such a graceful manner, she provides certain tips such as “[making the performance] about the audience” as “you have the power to make them laugh, cry, or fall in love, just with a piece!” Similarly, senior Sage S., one of the lead guitarists in Argent (BOB Champions 2015 and 2016) as well as IASAS Forensics and Debate Original Oratory delegate, claims that he “always [has] stage fright.” He describes stage fright to be “like a large weight in your chest that wants to break out” and admits to thoughts prior to his performances such as “What if the amp breaks? What if I forget the lyrics? What if I play the wrong chord?” and many more “What if’s.” However, Sage has four key tips for conquering stage fright:

  1. Nerves are the key to success. They propel humanity to greatness and are a form of adrenaline, so don’t be afraid of them.

  2. Don’t be afraid to look stupid. People will forget about it. Plus, it’s better to look stupid and to try your best than it is to look normal and not try at all.

  3. It will all be over soon.

  4. You only have one moment on stage, so make the most out of it.

So, future speakers and performers, go forth and conquer your fears!