Being required to perform in front of others is likely to arouse anxiety, and while a little of it is probably a good thing, the crippling, paralyzing variety will almost surely negatively affect your performance, making your worst fears come true. There are times when we are all called upon to perform in public, like playing music, making a toast at a wedding, or taking a test. It’s worth delving into some ideas to help manage that accompanying anxiety so that you can drill your performance.
The most important thing to understand is that your performance anxiety exists for a good reason, it’s usually cued off by uncertainty, and since there is no way to guarantee how a live performance will go, your uncertainty is the correct reaction. If we look on the bright side, we see that within reasonable levels existential anxiety is your best friend because it prompts you to take the upcoming performance seriously, to put in the necessary time to make sure you are prepared for it. A completely uncaring attitude could lull you into letting your big moment arrive without having properly prepared, and while you won’t feel a whole lot of anxiety your performance will surely suffer.
If we regard your performance anxiety as being cued off by uncertainty, it becomes clear that preparation is the prescription. Lots of people get secretly embarrassed that maybe they’re preparing too much, that what they are doing is obsessive overkill. But that’s simply because they don’t see the work that people at a very high level always put in behind the scenes to be able to crush their performance when it counts. They’ve already practiced it so many times, under as close conditions as possible to the real thing, that when the real thing finally comes along they’re able to rely on muscle memory to manage the very understandable anxiety that crops up. They have no question in their minds that they are sufficiently prepared, and this directly combats uncertainty. When you see something that looks off the cuff by these performers, realize that in most cases it was planned out and practiced hundreds of times already.
If you are so prepared that you could pretty much nail your specific performance with your eyes closed or while diverting your attention between a few different things, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be able to keep your existential anxiety at reasonable levels. And once you reach this level of preparation, what you regard as a ‘mistake’ will barely be noticed by your audience. Preparation is key when it comes to performance anxiety. Having to put ourselves out there in front of others is scary, there’s no way around that except for those rare people who feed off of the attention. For the rest of us, there is no such thing as being overprepared. You’ll be glad you put the extra hours in when your public performance goes off without a hitch.