Q&A: I’m Too Nervous to Perform

Let’s continue the conversation about what you want to know about improv. For reference, this started from a tweet where I want to hear what questions you have about improvisation

One question, or rather comment, I often hear is “Aren’t you nervous performing in front of others?”

“Aren’t you nervous performing in front of others?”

Nerves are a natural part of performing. All performers, presenters, and storytellers get nervous. Carol Kane, actor with a resume ranging from Dog Day Afternoon, to The Princess Bride, and more recently The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt recently shared the following in a Bullseye interview

“You’re not nervous for the other people you’re nervous because you’re wrestling with yourself to be as good as you know you’re supposed to be You have yo be you must be”

– Carol Kane, Bullseye with Jesse thorn

Upon hearing this, I rewinded the clip three times to make sure I heard it correctly. This is true on so many levels but one example from this January captures the feeling perfectly.

It’s January 2019…

I am sitting in a team building workshop focussing on workshop and presentation skills. My group is about to present our approach and I’m kicking off the first few slides. And I feel something I haven’t felt in ages.

Nervous.

I’m presenting in front of my coworkers, my peers, my friends. But I’m no stranger to presenting. After all, I present at work all the time. Supporting sales, or presenting research findings and strategic concepts. But those are clients, not colleagues.

But I present to colleagues at conferences. In those cases I am invited to speak with the expectation that someone wants to hear from me. So even though they’re colleagues there is a separation provided by the podium and slides.

And I present through improv. Here I perform to a room of strangers, with very little to lose and the stage lights melting nerves away.

But presenting in front of the 15 people I work closely with every day? Now that’s nerve wracking. I want to be as good as I know I can be. As good as I’m supposed to be. I must be (thanks Carol for summarizing my feelings).

Back to Improv

So when I hear “Are you nervous” or “I’m too nervous” I need to ask, do you present for work? Wether formally for sales pitches or presentation of findings or informally talking about what you are working on?

I’d say all those things are exponentially harder than performing in front of a room full of strangers. And you are already doing it! Improv for strangers is easy by comparison to some of the internal criticism I give myself.

I know this isn’t a glowing endorsement of presenting and getting on stage. I don’t mean to add to any nerves about performing or presenting at work. Rather, I want to level set that we already perform. We already present. And sometimes what we are most scared about isn’t the presentation or the potential for failure, but rather trying something new.

I want to hear from you

What questions about improvisation do you have? Respond to the original tweet, or comment below!

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