There are always three speeches
for everyone you actually gave.
The one you practiced, the one you gave
and the one you wish you gave.
Do you know that the skill of speaking successfully in front of an audience is found in the top 10 of the leading skills needed for professional success? According to the Guinness World Records, 45% of people place the fear of speaking in front of an audience above the fear of death. That’s really impressive!
Based on my 8-years studies as an opera singer in Moscow State Conservatory by Tchaikovsky and my long experience as a soloist soprano, I can assure you that the fear of exposure in front of an audience can be reduced, even disappear. At the Conservatory, they successfully handle that, by integrating young opera singers into a rigorous schedule which includes, among other rituals, singing every month, in front of a committee of professors, a completely new repertoire. These exams are held in a concert hall, simulating real recitals.
The repertoire is predetermined according to the voice category, the academic year and the semester. In the first years, three or four musical pieces are presented and gradually more. Initially the examination lasts just a few minutes, but over the years it can reach over half an hour. Therefore, all the students are trained to rapidly learn by heart poetry texts and melodies, to work with pianists, to dress according to a protocol and follow the rules of solid stage presence (bowing, nodding, gesturing, walking on the stage etc).
In the beginning, I remember stress was high and swerves were inevitable. Gradually, however, this kind of performances turned to be a pleasant routine. We would seriously take into consideration our professors’ precious advice and would expand our repertoire. If, during our first attempts, the on-stage performance slackened to 80% compared to the classroom rehearsals, over the years gradually the on-stage performance would become even better than the last rehearsal! That was the moment we could at last call ourselves professional opera singers, artists who have mastered their technique and interpretation to such a level that theatres would invite them to perform.
Anyway, a creative excitement always remains, though it evaporates as soon as the performance starts. It is a creative and healthy concern that dominates us whenever we are called upon to confront ourselves. To analogize to the public speaking, only through serious study, rehearsals and repetitions stage fear can be eliminated.
Experts use the term ‘systematic desensitization’ to describe the stepwise distancing from the fear. This process should initially take place in a protected environment, under guidance, with increasing difficulty of speeches. It is recommended that role play speeches are videotaped and discussed afterwards with feedback comments. Only then the speakers begin to expose themselves to an audience.
Are you ready to get prepared for the stage?