Top Ten Ways to Overcome Stage Fright: Part 1

06/11/2015 04:02 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2016

"The number one way to overcome stage fright is: Learn How To Control Your Diaphragm and Slow Your Heart Rate. This is the Method of Physical Action. Constantine Stanislavsky, the inventor of Method Acting, learned that by doing a physical act, you can create a true emotion. By creating a calm, confident physicality, you will feel calmer, more confident, and be able to enjoy performance. *Learn How In Part 2. Watch This Video Tutorial.

Here is the rest of the Overcoming Stage Fright countdown. I wrote it for singers with performance and/or audition anxiety, but it's useful for acting, presenting, and interviewing:

10. Forget Imagining Everyone In Their Underwear. That's just unsettling. Instead, try to Imagine the Presence of Your Number One Cheerleader. For me, that would be my grandmother. I imagine her face, somewhere in the audience, or slightly above them, elated and cheering me on at every note. The image feeds me. I can do no wrong in her eyes. I feel her shining on me and every moment of music is connected. If you haven't had a person like this in your life, try imagining your hero, or movie-crush, whoever you can enjoy feeling adored by while you sing. Imagine you are singing to someone you love and feel loved by, unconditionally.

9. Create A Magical, and Familiar Space That You Can Own. Any stage is magical by itself, but if you have not performed on it before, or many times before, it may feel as if it doesn't belong to you. Before you go to sleep at night, practice imagining a majestic place that is your own, e.g. the beach, or a mountain top. Re-create the sights, sounds, textures, temperatures, all the specifics you can, so that in the instant of walking out onto stage, you can see it, hear it, feel it, and smell it. It will give you a sense of familiarity, and ownership of the stage. Allow your audience to be there with you, in your space. Use a vast space that inspires you, that you are compelled to project into, instead of a small one, such as your bedroom.

8. Practice. Know Your Material Blindfolded. There's a good reason for concern, if you haven't learned your material. Practice every day. Know it. The added energy of being in front of an audience, will make your body behave a little differently than when you're alone. For experienced performers, who are feeling at home on stage, it can be a wonderful moment to put themselves on the line and play through a new song, that may contain rough spots, but if you're dealing with stage fright, play what you know, and what you've practiced.

7. Have A Plan. For example, if you are playing a full set of music, make a set list. Wondering what you should play next can completely pull you out of the song you are playing at the moment. It's a distraction. You can change your setlist on the fly, but it's ALWAYS a better show with a setlist. It helps you pace yourself and relax. If you are going to an audition, imagine what questions you could be asked. Prepare your answers. It can throw you off your game, if you are asked "Why do you want to be in the show?" and you don't have an answer. That will change how well you sing at your audition. Imagine what you would ask someone if you were the auditioner, and prepare those answers. If you are not asked the exact question you imagined, you often segue quickly and respond with your prepared answers.

6a. Think Through The Thoughts Of The Song. "Thinking thought" is one of the most valuable lessons taught to me by Michael Langham (Juilliard). It takes a while to learn how to trick your brain into believing it is creating each thought of the song, as you sing it. "Thinking thought" is the practice of connecting your voice to the words and sounds, as if the ideas are occurring to you for the first time. A powerful tool, it keeps your consciousness within the reality of the song. It enables you to sing the same song 10,000 times and have it always feel like it is the first time you are singing it.. "Thinking thought" helps to release you from the anxiety of judgement - your own or anyone else's.

6b. Know Who You Are, Who You Are Singing To and What Just Happened To Make You Have To Sing The Song. Along with "thinking thought," know in your imagination who you are, where you are and who you are singing to. It is easiest to go with what you know (e.g. I am me, singing to my dad, outside on our porch, after discovering my boyfriend has left me for another girl ala "Mama's Broken Heart," Miranda Lambert.) But, for the songs you sing that contain life experiences you may not relate to, you either need to pretend with an imaginary "as if," supposition - "what if" my boyfriend just dumped me for some other girl, and my mom told me "just get over it, already and fix your hair!" Or, you may need to use a substitution. If you can't yet imagine having a boyfriend, let alone a boyfriend that leaves you high and dry, smashing your heart into itty bitty pieces, you may be able to substitute the time something else very important was taken away, when you really, really wanted it. It only has to elicit three and a half minutes of true emotional connection to the thoughts of the song.

6c. Prepare What To Say Between Songs. For beginners, you will feel much more at ease, and do much better if you think about what you are going to say between songs, and then, again, think through the thoughts, as if those words are occurring to you in the moment. Speaking awkwardly about stories you are unable to convey or finish, can undermine your confidence and affect your ability to sing freely. Eventually, off-the-cuff stage banter becomes much easier.

Read the Top 5 Ways To Overcome Stage Fright in Part 2.