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6 Powerful Ways To Improve Your Performances

By: Hanne-Berit Hahnemann

Prepare for the unexpected by knowing you stuff.

With 30 years as a concert violinist, I have had my share of high pressure situations when things went, uhm, differently than I expected. I have managed to keep this one secret until now, but I once dropped all of my 25 copied pages in the middle of a concert for the Queen of Denmark; pages went flying all over the place and I had to walk around in my heels, pick them all up (some had fallen right by the Queen’s chair), then walk back and continue playing as if it were just another Sunday. I also once arrived to perform with the “other Queen”, Aretha Franklin, when I opened my case and gasp! no violin. Now this might frazzle even the most hard core performer. You don’t say “be right back” to the Queen of soul. But no matter what happens, stay focused, and keep your eye on your end product. The show goes on, with or without you! If I can give one single piece of advice about performing, it would be this: be better than well prepared. With the excellence of impeccable preparation comes peace of mind. Live performances are just that: live. That means that unexpected things may happen, so make sure you know your stuff on the back of your hand.

Learn to visualize.

Once you know your music, speech, dance, game, or whatever it is that you are preparing, make it a habit to integrate visualization into your daily practice. This should be integrated into your preparation from the beginning, but is especially essential when you are getting close to showtime. During practice, visualize performing at the actual venue. Visualize walking on stage, confidently, feeling unstoppable and strong. If you are a basketball player, visualize the act of scoring, actually shooting the ball in the hoop – if you are a speaker, visualize speaking, feeling animated and passionate, while captivating your audience with your important message. Visualize performing the entire show, with the exact atmosphere and message that you want. Always visualize being unafraid and immersed in the message at hand. This makes your performance incredibly strong, and gives doubt and stage fright less chance of creeping in.

Learn to control your mindset.

If you perform a lot, knowing you are in control of your moods is crucial. By controlling your mindset and mood, you can keep fear and anxiety at bay. Fear doesn’t thrive well when your mood is up, and controlling your mood is actually relatively easy; imagine seeing a video of cute, little, clumsy, yapping puppies or funny kittens, and how they make us smile: light mood. Now, segue to a video of war, blood and destruction, of orphaned children and injured innocent civilians: dark mood. The change is immediate. When you are preparing to go on stage, use the power of suggestion to think good thoughts of excitement and confidence to stay strong, focused and powerful. Another surprising and incredibly effective way to change your mood quickly, is to smile. The Serotonin released by smiling instantly makes you happier, lowers fear and anxiety and increases confidence and a feeling that all is good with the world. I know it sounds silly, but smiling has saved me from performance anxiety many a time, and I use it often before my shows. I once had to go on stage and play for 15.000 people in an outdoor summer concert. The dress rehearsal had not gone well, and worry and fear had been creeping up on me as the day went on. Suddenly, I felt weak and scared. In my panic, I remembered that smiling can help with depression, so I sat in my Green room and smiled straight for 10 minutes. Pretty soon, it was like a cloud had lifted off my head, and I could once again get focused and positive, and continue with my usual pre-performance rituals. Smiling is the easiest and fastest way to change your mood, and requires almost no effort at all. That night I walked on stage and had a great time!

Know you physiology.

We know that our mood affects our body language, but few realize that the opposite is true as well. You can change how you feel by the way you sit, stand and carry yourself. Studies show that if we sit or stand in a power pose for a minimum of 2 minutes, testosterone is increased in our brain, making us feel more confident and less anxious. When we feel scared or under confident, the natural reaction is to make ourselves look smaller, but the truth is that the opposite is necessary. Animals puff themselves up to appear bigger and to feelmore powerful, and we can do the same. With power poses, our breathing becomes deeper and calmer, affecting our heart rates and sense of confidence and efficacy. So, lots of hands on hips, legs apart, or other victory poses, especially on the day of a performance. For more information on body language and power poses, check out Amy Cuddy on Ted Talk.

Change your language and focus.

Watch what you say to yourself when you practice and when you get ready to perform. Your thoughts and self talk severely affect your mood and behavior. We become our thoughts, so if you doubt yourself, and tell yourself you may not do well, then that is what will happen; you will not do well. Push aside negative talk, even to others, and make positive self talk your new awesome habit. Prepare yourself with 5 or 6 positive, empowering messages that you tell yourself consistently, and that you can use whenever you need to. Remember, whatever you tell yourself, is what you will become. So choose to be great!

Have strong pre-performance rituals.

Be precise and focused about what you do the day of an important performance. I love to go out, but I am always strict about what I do before high pressure events; the night before a show with Sting at Carnegie Hall, is not a good time for partying. Getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy, and staying away from drama of any kind, are all the best recipes for staying focused. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to the venue, so you won’t be rushed or frazzled. 30 minutes before stage, begin to get in the mood or role of your performance, so that when the curtain goes up, you are ready and eager to convey your message. Remember, performing is about giving and expressing – it’s not about you! The more you take yourself out of the equation, the more you can focus on the most important of all: your amazing, wonderful message.

Remember you were born to shine!

For more performance coaching, visit me on

Hanne-Berit Hahnemann, founder of Power Coaching International, is a positive psychology coach as well as an award-winning violinist and licensed therapist. She holds a doctorate in musical arts, a masters in violin performance and a masters in counseling. She has shared the stage with some of the greatest artists in the world, such as Elton John, James Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Sting, Paul Simon, Josh Groban, Diana Ross, The Dave Letterman Band, and hundreds others. Her debut recital in Carnegie Hall received critical acclaim by the New York Times, who along with the international press described her performance style as illuminating, aristocratically virtuosic, and superbly sensitive.

As a performance, life and career coach, she is ideally suited to help others achieve excellence, success and unstoppable confidence, and help them take their performances to the highest level. As a licensed therapist, she also has clinical experience, and works part time in private practice in Cleveland, Ohio.

Hanne-Berit is multilingual and has lived in major international metropolitan areas in the world, including Vienna, London, Copenhagen and New York. Although a native of Copenhagen, Denmark, she currently lives in Cleveland, Ohio, where she lives with her two teenage daughters; she juggles the demands of being a busy mom, seeing clients and running a successful business. In her free time, she enjoys family and friends, fitness, movies, traveling, design, as well as the great food and wine scene in Cleveland.