Comics share tips on coping with stage fears

For many people, there’s nothing funny about being asked to make a speech or presentation. But two comics think they can fix that.

Standups Alexandra Haddow and Jamie Allerton have just written an article for the Guardian newspaper in the UK, offering their tips and tricks for overcoming nerves when you are speaking in front of any audience.

I’d like to share three of the tips from Alexandra and Jamie:

1 – Connect with ‘your’ crowd

Alexandra and Jamie write that comedians learn to identify quickly who in the audience is going to respond best to a joke, a question, or even a heckle putdown. So look for friendly, receptive faces as you scan your audience, and address your remarks to them. “Finding people in the room who are engaged and may give verbal encouragement normally helps you give a more enthusiastic and idiosyncratic performance. Finding someone in the room who relates to the topic will help you speak more openly and passionately.”

2 – People want you to do well

Tip number two from the stand-up duo is all about how you think about the audience. “The audience is yours to lose, and unless you’ve made yourself some enemies there’s a lot of goodwill before you’ve even stepped in front of them. Use that goodwill as a platform to begin your performance.”

3 – Use and lose your ego

“Part of being at ease with yourself is learning how to leave your ego at the door (when necessary) and listen to criticism,” write Alexandra and Jamie. “It takes a lot of confidence to take feedback without seeing it as a permanent flaw within yourself. For example, if we’re on stage we’re always encouraging our ego to take over, because we need to own the room – but if we lose the crowd because we’ve misjudged the tone, we need to work hard to win them over again. As soon as a comedian starts blaming the audience, your ego has taken over when it shouldn’t have. It’s the same in any situation: if after a presentation someone offers you a way you could improve, they’re trying to help, so don’t let it dent your confidence – take it on board and use it for next time if you think they might have had a point.”