Advice on Stage Fright from Slam Poets

Public speaking can be intimidating, especially if you've never shared your personal work with an audience or at a particular venue. Whether it's your first time attending an open mic or your first time sharing your poems in front of a class, these poets have got you covered, with advice on how to stay calm, confident, and connect with your audience.

  1. "Rehearse in the mirror. Look at yourself being great and remember others will see how great you are too." — Tony Keith Jr., Slam Poet and Educator This is one of the oldest tips in the book and for good reason! Once you've selected a poem, try practicing it. A great rehearsal exercise is to practice the poem by yourself until you're confident. Then, step away from the mirror and rehearse the poem in front of people you're most comfortable around. The last step is to go outside to any public space, like a park, and speak your poem aloud. Your performance doesn't have to be directed towards anyone in particular; this is more about gaining confidence and banishing the anxiety of speaking in front of strangers.
  2. "Instead of trying to suppress your fear, accept it and channel it into your poem." — Henry Gonzalez Jr., Poet and Advocate for Latinx Rights Stage jitters and anxiousness are totally normal and nothing to be embarrassed about. Even seasoned public speakers get nervous sometimes. This New York poet's suggestion can help you take those negative, uncomfortable feelings and turn them into a positive vehicle for powerfully speaking your work. Take all of that energy and repurpose it! Think of those fearful jitters as jolts of electricity shooting from your feet all the way up to your mouth and arms. Move around on the stage if your legs are shaking. Get really into it and walk further from the mic or make a gesture towards the crowd. Reclaim that nervousness and use it to emphasize the power of your poetry (pun intended).
  3. "It's not about you. It's about connecting with them." — Ness White, Poet and Performance Artist If you're creating potent pieces on political and social issues, this tip might change the way you approach public performance. Think about your performance as a political act that will change the world. If you're reciting a more personal piece, know that your narrative is just as important: words are the best weapons, after all! Just remember that if the poem means something to you it has the ability to resonate with others. Walk to the stage with your goal in mind: maybe you want to empower young writers or maybe you want to vent about a new law that was just passed. If you are passionate about the words you're speaking, your audience will absorb that passion and connect with you. Chances are, you'll teach them something new about themselves and/or the world along the way.
  4. "There is no cowardice in poetry. The world needs to hear your voice now more than ever. So we must be brave. We must be bold in broken places. The stage is not something to be feared but to be revered." — Miranda Wylie, Slam Poet and Artist Every writer who gets in front of a crowd and shares their work is seriously super brave. Never doubt yourself! Not everyone has the courage to stand up and speak their truths in front of others. Just realizing that you want to do so is the first and hardest step. You should have a boost in confidence just knowing that you are one of the valiant poets who've decided to take on the stage. Know that the mic is your mic, the spotlight is your spotlight, and the audience is your audience. Own it! Let yourself become empowered and inspired by the other speakers you are sharing the stage with you. Let that fuel your performance fire and the words will come easily. You got this, we believe in you!

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