Step 1. We’re all Scaredy Cats. Especially you!
Yes, you are going to be nervous, and guess what? That is perfectly okay. I know entertainers that perform for years and still each time right before they get called up, they feel like they want to vomit.
This goes for all kind of performers. Poets, comedians, musical artists, even visual artists presenting their work. for many of us, it isn’t easy to share these creative outbursts of ourselves to the world. We subject our life’s work to the risk of rejection and embarrassment, open to unfiltered public scrutiny. I’m surprised more people don’t straight-out faint! So to be bold enough to share yourself openly deserves credit.. and your well executed piece will get the props it deserves.
This anxiety itself is a form of fear, our primal survival instinct that’s meant to energize us for fight or flight in the face of doom and danger. In the case of the stage, your “fighting” is you taking the mic! That’s the hard part, working through the emotion. If you “flight” and leave the venue to avoid performing, you might never get called up again. So grow a pair.
Step 2: Dont get stranded cuz ya ran out of Paper!
It’s okay to take your poem on paper (or by phone text-or whatever you young bucks are doin’ nowadays) to the stage! Yes, even if (better yet- ESPECIALLY if) you’re going on after some super feature-level performer.
Why? Because you’d look worse trying to go up there and do what that very experienced person just did, then you can’t remember past the first few lines and you choke on stage. It would have saved your performance if you had the poem to sneak a peek at right in your hands at that brain-fart moment, huh?
For me personally, I do not feel a piece is embedded in my memory until I perform it at least once in front of an audience. What alot of performers do is they have a place- a kind of “home base” where they practice their new material, then once they feel they’ve worked out the kinks, the piece makes polished appearances at other venues around the city!
Step 3: Teddy Beer or Grizzly Beer?
It’s okay to calm your nerves with a beer or two before you hit the stage. It really does help for some of us to get our bravery from the bottle. But remember- moderation is key! Let me say that again because it warrants repeating- MODERATION IS KEY! It’s all too common that a performer hits the stage and has had too much to drink (or smoke) and everybody knows it. Then it actually may become painful to watch them slur and stumble their way through their piece, and afterwards nobody was paying attention to the words anyway.
Step 4: Respect the Clock or U’ll Be Its Cuckoo
When you’re on stage- take a moment to soak it all in and prepare to let it all out. Don’t rush your piece.
Take your time and don’t let your nerves make you sound like a telemarketer squeezing out a sales pitch before you hang up on ’em. Might be a good time to just say hello to the crowd, thank the venue or the host.. if the person performing before you was really good you might ask the crowd to clap for them again as you prepare yourself to read/perform.
Then respect the time limit.. it’s not going to be your last time up, like, EVER.. right?
Step 5: You Need Eyes On the Back Of Yo’ Head!
If you’re serious about performing for the long run.. bring someone with you that can support and be really (and I mean brutally) honest about how they see you on stage and how you sound. You need to be able to measure your performance quality. If the venue allows it, you can have someone record you on video so that you can see yourself and become aware of how you are delivering your piece. alot of times, we have habits and mannerisms that we’re not consciously aware of, and only seeing ourselves can correct the behaviors.
Have a conversation with your friends about your strength and weakness on stage. This will help you come up with a solid style by allowing you to analyze and control your stage presence. Ultimately, it’s up to you to keep working toward being the best performer you can be. That’s why it’s a Lifes work.
Feel free to share this with your friends, I’ll be writing more tips as they come to me.