Professional athletes and performing artists require peak performance at critical times, as their careers and livelihoods depend on sustained success. Likewise examination candidates aim for high levels of performance in examinations that are important to their particular educational and vocational paths. In many areas of performance where there is something of high value at stake for the performer, anxiety can increase and, at times, compromise the quality of the performance outcome. The present article comments on the four components of performance anxiety: physiological, cognitive, affective, and behavioural, and three major influential factors. The four components describe the nature of performance anxiety, but can also interact to create a spiralling cycle of anxiety with the potential to impact on the performance. Three major influential factors are discussed (personality variables; experience, including preparation and performing; and situational variables). Lessons learned from investigative studies of performance anxiety in sport and music performance are discussed, and parallels drawn with test anxiety.