Sarah asks: In two weeks I am going to perform (rap) on stage and I am extremely nervous. What can I do to help me reduce that fear?
Hi Sarah –
The first – and most important – thing for you to know about this is that Stage Fright is the most common greatest fear in the human race. Let me clarify what I mean: when people are asked in surveys “What is your greatest fear,” and there are answers like illness, death, and losing all your money, they answer “Public Speaking” more often than anything else!
We dogs don’t have as big a problem with this, because we don’t have self-awareness and self-consciousness in the way humans do (simply because our brains are smaller!). But I sure see humans freaking out about it a lot, so I can offer you a few suggestions to help you with it (try them out and see which ones work for you, and don’t worry about the rest).
– KNOW YOUR PART VERY WELL. One of the main reasons people get scared on stage is that they don’t know their parts well enough, and when they step in front of the audience, it all goes gobbledygook in their heads. Now that can happen to the most experienced actor or singer, but the better you know your rap, the less you’ll worry about that. Even if you think you have it memorized, keep working on it. Here’s a wild idea that can help – try saying your rap backwards. Like if I took my last sentence and said “Backwards rap your saying try help can that idea wild a here’s!” It’s really hard, and might take you a while, but when you’re done you’ll know the words better than ever before!
– FOCUS ON SOMETHING OTHER THAN THE AUDIENCE. Are you going to be rapping with someone else? Just put your focus on them and pretend the audience isn’t there. Or if not, look at some object above the audience, or even at a light.
– PRACTICE IN THE PLACE. If the rap is going to be in a theater, go in there when it’s empty, sometime that day before your show. Do your whole act to the empty house. It’ll give you a feeling of owning the stage, and the right to the place, as opposed to that awful feeling that you’re walking into the audience’s space and hoping they like you!
– PRACTICE WITH ANOTHER AUDIENCE. Can you do your rap in front of a couple of friends first? Ideally someone who will even help you with it (“Hey that was great Sarah, but you got too quiet on that one line”). If you can do this, don’t do it just once. Try it ten times! Remember, your goal is your comfort – you can repay their patience and support later (ice cream tends to be a great method!).
– PICK SOMEONE TO TRUST. Is there someone in the audience you know you can trust to like you no matter what? A good friend or family member, who’s as non-judgmental as me?! Find out where they’ll be, and direct your whole performance to them, as if there’s no one else there.
– THIS WORKS FOR LOTS OF PEOPLE though I honestly don’t know why, but if you just can’t help but see that audience looking at you, and feel totally embarrassed, picture all of them wearing no clothes. Either naked or in their underwear. Lots of people with great stage fright find that this helps loads. It wouldn’t work for me at all – it’d make me notice them more – but hey try it and see what happens.
– AND IF ALL ELSE FAILS… Wear dark glasses so you can’t see the audience. Since lots of rappers wear shades, you’ll likely get away with it – they’ll just think it’s a fashion choice!
Okay, Sarah, those are my best suggestions for now. Except for one thing: Remember why it was that you wanted to do this in the first place. Something in you loves the idea of rapping to these people. And the more you let that love flow through you, the easier this will be. After all, this isn’t a math exam; this is FUN!!!
I hope you’re the greatest thing since Public Enemy!
Your Public Friend,