This week finds me preparing to host my first virtual recital for my voice students! From age 7 to 40-something, these brave souls have been hard at work choosing a song they love, developing excellent vocal technique so they can support their voices to the fullest, and discovering how the song connects with their own story so that they can allow this emotional connection to come through in their performance.
I absolutely can’t wait to hear them!
At our rehearsal, I’ll be giving my students tips for how to give their best performance. I thought you might be wondering about this too, which is why I am giving you this sneak preview! Without further ado…
The Top 6 Tips For Giving Your Best Performance
1. Be prepared
One of the most common causes of stage fright is the feeling of being unprepared. The good news is that you have absolute control over how prepared you are! Several weeks (or even months) before your show, take focused time each day to do warmups and exercises, sing through your song(s), identify the tricky spots and how you’ll get through them (if you’re having trouble, I can help!), memorize the lyrics, and contemplate how you connect emotionally with the song. When we really know our material, we can go into a performance feeling much more relaxed and confident, allowing the stage jitters to melt away and our beautiful authentic voices to shine through.
2. Take care of yourself
What do you do to keep yourself feeling calm and centered? Yoga? Time in nature? Meditation? Breathing? Whatever it is, make some time the day of your performance to do these things. I’m gonna sound like your mom for a minute, but when is the last time you ate? Did you drink enough water? Do you have to pee before we go? Do whatever you need to do to take care of your body and mind. This will be slightly different for each person, so really investigate the things that work best for you, and work them into your pre-performance ritual. Anything you can do to calm the nervous system beforehand will make stage fright much less likely, leading to a stronger and more centered performance.
3. Warm up first
Within an hour of your performance, be sure to warm up your voice. Start with some gentle hums or lip bubbles, saying “hi” to the voice. Make faces, massage the jaw, stretch your body (because as we know, as singers OUR BODY is the instrument!). Then start working with your favorite vocal exercises. (Please reach out to book a vocal consultation if you’d like me to give you personalized exercises to address your unique vocal strengths and challenges.) Then sing through a song or two, paying lots of attention to your technique and correcting any tricky spots. Lastly, drop it all and sing a song just for the fun of it, feeling your connection with the song and how good it feels just to sing. You’re ready!
4. Talk to yourself
I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have the voice of the inner critic bouncing around in their head. “Why did you do that?” “That totally sucked!” “Who do you think you are?” Just because we all have this voice doesn’t mean we have to let it beat us up all the time. We can notice the voice as it arises and choose to change the narrative. We can gently say to ourselves, “I trust all the hard work I put into developing my voice. I trust my preparation for this performance. I trust my love of singing and my love of these songs.” You might create a mantra that you repeat every time the voice of the inner critic arises. “I deserve to share my voice.” “I am worthy.” “I belong here.”
The voice of the inner critic may not ever go away completely, but as we notice it and cultivate other kinds of thoughts, it will slowly but surely lose its power over us. (For lots more information about the origin of the inner critic and ways to work with it so it stops running the show, be sure to check out my online course, The World Needs Your Voice.)
5. Be in service of the song
We’ve all seen performances where the singer’s ego is running wild. Her purpose in singing seems to be to show off all the notes she can sing, all the fantastic things she can do with their voice, and to impress everyone. Please, please, please, do not be that singer! The world has enough of them! Be in service of the song. See if you can check your ego at the door, let go of being impressive or even “good,” and ask yourself, “What does this song need in this moment?” And do only that. I’ll let you in on a little secret. The less you “try” to be good, the more you will get out of your own way so you can actually BE good! Try it and see if it’s true for you!
6. Let the audience have their experience
One of my greatest mentors, Art Lande, said something to me years ago that changed my life. I was preparing for a gig, I was nervous, it was way outside my comfort zone, and to be frank, I was freaking out. Art heard me out, then gently took my hands and said, “Sweetheart, it’s none of your business whether or not the audience likes you.” My mind literally stopped. If the purpose of performing wasn’t to get out there and make everyone like me, then what the hell was it?
But he was absolutely right. First of all, it’s not even possible to make everyone like you, because everyone likes different things. So why even try? Second, the audience is there to receive. You are there to give. It really can be that simple. You give from a place of love and sincerity, and they hear it and have their honest reaction, whatever that might be. And again, ironically, the audience is more likely to enjoy your performance if they don’t feel that you are trying to manipulate them emotionally.
If you are willing to prepare, relax, trust, connect with the song, and give from a place of generosity and love, then it truly doesn’t matter what the audience thinks. You can walk off stage knowing that you’ve had the courage to give them a piece of your heart, a tender glimpse into the truth of who you really are.
Now that’s my definition of a “good” performance.
Want more ideas about how to overcome negative thought patterns, work with stage fright, build confidence, and more? Be sure to check out my online course, The World Needs Your Voice!