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Start small.

Performing poetry is like other types of public speaking. Starting in small, friendly audiences helps build confidence for the next step. Even if you are an experienced public speaker, doing a new thing before new audiences can be daunting. The author of this work used to do weekly public speaking. He spoke before his church. It was a familiar audience, seen every week. The faces changed over time, but there might be only one or two new people each week. He grew comfortable with this public speaking role. He had also done other forms of public speaking, including teaching college courses. He was asked to give a presentation to an educational organization focused on business. He prepared his presentation well. When he stood up before this new audience, talking on a topic that was less comfortable than the weekly role, panic hit. He masked the stage fright well, and went on to deliver his presentation. The point is that stage fright will come, and it may be worse than you expect because you are doing something new and different. Starting out small with your poetry performances may help you avoid freezing up or giving a nervous performance.

Start out in front of your family, a poetry club, a Toastmasters group, or another “safe” venue. After you are comfortable in the “safe” zone, go out to a small venue that has an open poetry slam or, for singers, an open mike night. As you build confidence in your work and get better at gauging and playing to your audiences, move up to bigger venues. Maybe someday, you’ll have the honor of performing your poetry or songs before thousands of people.

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