I was seven years old standing in the wings waiting for my turn to step out onto the stage. Despite knowing all my lines, moments before I was to take those few enormous steps to center stage, my mind went blank, and my lines disappeared. I wanted to turn to someone, anyone, and frantically say, “I don’t remember my lines, what are my lines?!” And then magic happened. My cue to step onto the stage arrived. My lines were there. Nothing was out of place as I immersed myself in the imaginary world of squirrels, trees, and nature on an auditorium stage. I was at peace. I felt at home.

Years later, I remember an acting teacher speaking to the students about the power of looking at your audience and connecting with them. It made sense to me. I came to see the audience as my friend. The audience was my grounding cord. Their eyes and mine met in silent agreement to dance together, for a short while, to convey information, explore, entertain, or be inspired.

I learned to embrace authenticity on stage, bringing my entire self without reservation. Whether it’s a stumble up the stairs or a sudden sneezing fit, I don’t shy away from acknowledging awkward or funny moments. The audience is drawn to the speaker’s sincerity, and by recognizing the realities of the present, you become more relatable. Additionally, you feel more stable within yourself without the need to hide whatever is going on.

I remember one audience member saying to me, “You say things we all think and feel but are too afraid to say.” This becomes easy when you understand that the audience is your partner in creativity, not the intimidating enemy. The audience is like an anchor for your ship that is drifting across the sea. The audience is the port you can settle into, where you get to offer the wisdom or inspiration that only you can give, that your audience wants to hear. This anchoring through your own presence to another person’s presence, be that an audience of one, or a crowd of thousands, is exactly what brings relaxation and ease.

For the audience is simply our fellow human beings. As human beings we are social creatures in which face-to-face meetings have the ability to calm our brains. Together, we navigate the universal quirks and vulnerabilities inherent in being human, allowing for our foibles and frailties, for shared laughter and tears. This recognition of our shared humanity encourages compassionate connection.

Recently, I met a woman who talked about her stage fright anxiety. The irony is that I watched this woman speak effortlessly in the group I met her in. I saw no blocks as she labeled them, herself. Perhaps she was partly still in the cocoon getting ready to emerge, I told her. Maybe her legs felt a bit wobbly and were working their way out, but her wings were already flapping with art and lightness and joy. I intuitively saw her, in the future, leading others, speaking before audiences with full confidence.

I understood her anxiety from a different perspective because I was a painfully shy child, often observing from the sidelines. Standing in the corners of the bar, even through college. Such shyness is not unusual. Many public figures, speakers, actors, and artists are shy. We are familiar with the anxiety: the stage fright, the anticipatory fear, maybe social anxiety for some, and the resulting physical toll it takes on us. From lightheadedness to clammy hands, to the voice shaking to a last-minute rush to the bathroom, the pounding heart, or even a dry mouth. Yet, understanding and embracing the tension can transform it into a source of charismatic energy.

Actors understand that the butterflies in their bellies are infused with energy that hold the keys to their charisma. The anticipatory fear is our excitement that, when harnessed and directed, is the butterfly wings about to take flight into beauty. The rush of adrenaline fuels the charisma to enhance your presence. A presence that doesn’t necessarily need to roar its passions out to reach the audience. But that can, just as easily, gently invite the audience into your world.

Here are 8 powerful tips that help me prepare


1. Acknowledge the Fear, the worry, the excitement, and the joy of anticipation knowing that stage fright is a natural human response. It’s a sign that you care deeply about your audience, and about your work. Stay focused on your message, on what you know, and on bringing that forward to share.

2. Warm Up the Voice. As a singer and vocal sound healer, I know the power of one’s own voice, so I make sure my physicality is in good shape by warming up my voice and my body with vocal exercises, singing, and movement. I do this whether it’s for a live performance, a radio interview, or a YouTube video. If it’s a morning event, I make sure to rise early to do the same.

3. Take Excellent Care of Yourself and Your Instrument in the weeks before an event. Take care of your body, heart, voice, mind, and soul. Plant extra sweet thoughts into yourself and into the atmosphere around you. Nourish yourself with healthy food, extra sleep, kindness, and compassion. For me that means no upsetting movies or excessive news that might have me tossing in restless sleep the night before a presentation.

4. Know Your Stuff. I had an executive client who had so much stress about the interview process that he was blowing his interviews for the positions he wanted to get. (Interviews can be like preparing for short speeches.) After discovering what he loved in life and what tapped into his confidence, I took him into the imaginary energetic situation that he was familiar, comfortable, and happy with. I then took him from that happy and peaceful, in-charge feeling-state into the office and interview scenario, while reminding him that he knew his stuff. He wasn’t in charge of how it would be received but he knew what was in his briefcase. He had a mastery of his material. He knew what he had for breakfast. When you are going to be on the stage for a presentation, practice and rehearse your presentation, relax, and then be confident that you know your stuff! Like my seven-year-old self, your lines will be there.

5. Know and Meet Your Audience Ahead of Time. Even if I’m speaking before an audience and I have no idea who they are as individuals, I take time in the days before, or even in the weeks before, to quiet myself and picture the room I will be speaking in. Even if I haven’t seen the room, I imagine into the feeling of the room. I sense the air quality, the lights, the spaciousness. Most importantly, I see my audience in that room receiving what I am conveying. In the recesses of my heart and mind, I ask that each person in that audience, and in the collective audience, receive value from what I will be communicating. Then I send out an affirmative wave to each of them so that they may be well, be at ease, and know peace. What this does is to create connection even before I have ever met them—and it calms the paratroopers that may be storming my belly. Because now I know my audience ahead of time. And with the wand of my own imagination, I have turned those anxious paratroopers in the belly into the power of butterflies whose energy and wingspan give me the peace, the purpose, and drive to soar onto the stage when the time arrives.

6. Ask For What You Need. Not everything unfolds seamlessly before stepping onto the stage. Once, I found myself without transportation before a performance. Craving some alone time before facing the audience, I reached out to a friend for a ride. Fortunately, she was available and graciously quiet during the drive. Choosing the right person mattered. If it had been someone else, I would have requested a quiet ride to internally prepare myself before speaking. Additionally, I always make a point to ask event planners for any necessary arrangements. Most are quick to fulfill basic needs like water, a mic, or a stand. However, it’s prudent to be proactive and request what will specifically support the success of your speech or performance. It may also be beneficial to ask for a sneak peek of the room upon arrival. Remember to articulate your needs to ensure a smooth and successful presentation.

7. Take a Moment on the Sidelines before stepping onto the stage to honor the cocoon or experiences that nurtured you. Some people may do jumping jacks or deep breathing to get their energy moving. Some may peek out to the audience to see who is there. Others may find it more suitable to connect with the unseen world. To appreciate and soak in the warmth of the invisible powers that unconditionally love and support them. In this space, pay heed to the calm and creative chaos of butterflies fluttering in your stomach if they have shown up. In tandem with the fluttering, recognize how much you care. Your wish to deeply connect serves as the runway for those few steps onto the stage. Embrace the beauty of your charisma and your own enlivened energy that allows you to confidently rise and dance with your full presence, enjoying the butterfly flight and journey.

8. Celebrate When You Are Done. Find a way to celebrate. Have someone you can call and share with. Write about it in a journal to remember, congratulate yourself! Do something you love, enjoy a sweet celebratory dinner, a long lazy nap the next day to relax and dream. Do something to put the cherry on your cake of celebration. So that when the time rolls around to get on another stage, you’ll have the memory of your past celebrations reinforced in you and, from these, you will be able to rise again.

These tips are simple yet effective rituals to take care of yourself before, during, and after your performance or speech. They act as your backstage helpers which, in turn, help you care for your audience. It’s like being the host or hostess with the mostest, creating your own party for specially invited guests. That’s you! These tips, in collaboration with your audience and guests, will enhance your ability to creatively connect, contribute, and enjoy the moment. As we say in show business, ‘break a leg’ — not really!

At the tender age of seven, Elizabeth discovered her wings and a passion for storytelling while standing in the wings of a stage. Today, she leverages her passions to connect with audiences worldwide. To explore Elizabeth’s work and to receive guidance, mentorship, and coaching for your next speech or storytelling event, don’t hesitate to reach out. She is dedicated to helping individuals find their creativity, and their confidence and peace in expressing themselves, whether on the page or the stage. Sign up for her newsletter to discover how to Embrace Your Creativity & Peace.

Art Photography by Elizabeth Welles

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