Mark Schulman knows a thing or two about performing. The 54-year-old drummer has played with everyone from Billy Idol to Foreigner to Simple Minds, and he currently drums for both Pink and Cher.
When he's not traveling the world, Schulman's found another passion in the form of motivational presentations for businesses and performers of all types. The topic of his presentations? Stage fright.
For someone who got their first drum set at 9 and played their first gig at 12, you'd think Schulman wouldn't have too many stories of stage fright ruining his performances, and you'd be right. After nerves destroyed his chances during an audition with Bad English when he was just starting out, the LA native promised to himself that he'd never let stage fright get the best of him again.
Following the audition, Schulman partook in some intensive training to make good on his promise. Roughly three decades of professional drumming later, the veteran decided to share what he learned in a book, Conquering Life's Stage Fright, in which he'd break his learnings down into three steps for anyone who was struggling with nerves and performance.
“Everything in our lives comes down to performance,” Schulman says. “It applies to all walks of life, whether it's a toast at a friend's wedding or a rock show or a sales pitch, or even just a conversation with your spouse.”
With that in mind, here are five tips from Schulman and the various people he interviewed for his book.
1. “You don't want to be devoid of emotion. You have to manage it, tame it, harness it, and use it to give yourself peak performance.”
2. “Tony Hsieh is a billionaire and the CEO of Zappos. He gives a lot of speeches, but when he gets on stage he's still super nervous. He told me he always goes to the same go-to story for the first thing out of his mouth. It's a story he knows so well that he doesn't have to think about it at all, and by the time he's done with it, he's not nervous anymore. That's why bands play something they're comfortable with playing to start a set, because after 30-45 seconds, you're fine.”
3. “Dr. Ronda Beaman is a very respected professor and author, and she gives presentations all over the world. She told me that the biggest thing is to act confident. Tell yourself 'I am this huge being' before you go out on stage. As a drummer, you're basically sitting on a throne. If you act like a badass, it'll inspire confidence in others. If you're freaking out, you'll freak others out.”
4. “There was a stretch where I would still get really nervous before shows, even if I'd played the songs at hundreds of shows before. One day, I started talking to myself to figure out why I was nervous. I asked myself where this tension was coming from, and I realized I was putting it on myself. I told myself to think about the audience, because the show isn't about you, it's about them. You know what that makes you if you think about yourself instead of the audience? It makes you a selfish idiot. Once I realized that, I wasn't nervous anymore.”
5. “Tim Sanders (a former Yahoo! executive and sought-after public speaker) looks in the mirror and gives a presentation to himself before he'll show it to anyone else. You can make so many adjustments by looking in the mirror. You are your toughest critic, and it just gives you so much information about yourself. It gives you clarity.”
To learn more than that, you'll have to buy the book, which is available September 12 on Amazon and Guitar Center.