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The secret of a good performance on stage

„Janis, you’re always so relaxed on stage. Do you have any special preparation? One way or another, I get asked this question a lot. Many people even believe that I am simply not nervous, that this is a talent, a gift. Which is not true. Earlier in my life, I could not have imagined speaking freely in front of hundreds of people - until I discovered a very simple trick!

Where does stage fright come from?

Anyone who speaks on stage and in front of people knows, that stage fright is normal. As a matter of fact, it’s a good thing – because stage fright is nothing more than a certain type of excitement that ensures us to be laser focus. It’s comparable to some form of tunnel vision on essential things. The right amount of adrenaline in the blood sharpens your senses. Stage fright does not paralyze, but much rather gives you the necessary kick of energy. As soon as stage fright turns into fear, we feel paralyzed, inhibited and ready to surrender. Quite counterproductive for presenting on stage. For me, it was one particular realization that turned fear into a pleasant level of tension.

Why is my audience here today?

Most of us have been faced with speaking in front of people for the first time in their school or university. Explaining your homework on the blackboard, presenting a paper or the results of a group project – we all know these or any comparable situations. This means, early on a link is created in our brain that „speaking in front of an audience“ synonymously means “I am being tested and graded”. Going on stage with this mindset can create great fear, real anxiety to be tested. This mindset turns the audience into a judge and not what it really is: a curious, usually complaisant group of people.

I am not being tested; I am being heard

When I realized that nobody joins my keynotes for testing reasons, that I don't come up against people who grade me, but who simply want to listen to what I have to say, everything changed! It became clear to me that what I do on stage is not any different from what I usually do – telling people about my experiences because I want to encourage, inspire and motivate them. In everyday life I'm not afraid of it, whether I know the person in front of me or not. So why should I be afraid on a stage? It's not a testing environment. They came to listen to me. They are curious about the topic. Yes, they are here for those exact reasons: to be encouraged, inspired, and motivated. They want me and my lecture. They’re excited about this!

Do I prepare myself? Definitely – I have to!

A keynote is not a test, it’s a meeting. And of course, I prepare myself for meetings. I naturally know what I’m talking about, what the core of my message is. It’s my job to be my best possible self, mentally and physically. I do this for myself and out of respect for my audience. Being the best version of myself ensures that I’m having a good time on stage, that my audience is facing a present speaker who’s not only nice to look at but also transfers the right mood. Ahead of any appearance on stage I bundle up my concentration, where the stage fright comes in handy. I also visualize my audience; any distance felt is reduced by the sympathy I am creating. Sympathy for the people that I get to tell about something I think is important and precious. There is no “them and I”; there is only “us” in there. The audience may also have some stage fright, since they don’t know what’s about to happen on stage.

Realizing this has lifted my style of presentation to a whole new level. Calm, free and close to the people.

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© 2024 Janis McDavid