Guest post by Christian Kit Goguen
Show time in an hour. I have 20 minutes to show presenters what I know how to do best. Twenty minutes? That goes by fast. Whew, I'm stressed! Well, the 20 minutes will soon be over... breathe... relax. Wait, no! I have to sell myself! Show time in 45 minutes. What am I supposed to do?
For several years, I have been invited at various events to give stage presence coaching. There are several things that can help improve your presence on stage. Some of these things are quite simple, and others require continuous work. Moreover, an artist's work is a lifetime's work. Here are ten things I like to put into practice for a solid showcase foundation:
- Warm-ups | Do you go on stage and it's only after the second or third song that you start feeling comfortable and in control? Doing vocal and physical warm-ups will help you reach this level of comfort as soon as the spotlight is on you.
- Posture and projection | Have you ever noticed that dogs will lie on their backs when they feel comfortable with someone? This animal instinct to expose their vital organs when they are feeling total trust also manifests itself in humans. The proof: when you feel observed, attacked, uncomfortable or nervous, you often cross your arms. We protect our vital organs at all costs. This phenomenon manifests itself in some artists to such an extent that they cannot go on stage and sing without having a guitar in front of them or a microphone stand to which they cling at all costs.
It is hard work to free yourself from this burden, which often comes from long-standing social conditioning. However, it is the duty of the performing artist to be aware of this phenomenon. What a liberation to finally open up and free yourself from this and become aware and confident that you have the right to be as big and present as you want on stage.
- Look | Have you ever talked to someone who was so concerned about something else that you felt they weren't looking at you, or even listening to you? When I attend a show, I immediately see if the artist is completely in his head. Will I remember my words? Do they like it? Is my guitar tuned? Is my zipper up? etc.
A tip! Give yourself up to the present moment, to the music. Focus your gaze on specific places in the room. Don't sweep the room with your eyes. If you try to look at everyone in 3 seconds, you are not looking at anyone and no one will feel engaged. Really look. Let your eyes linger. That's why after the show, many people will have had the feeling that you sang just for them. Beautiful, no?
- End of songs | Let the end of your songs breathe. If you sing a love or break-up song, the audience gets into your world. However, if you step away from this emotion the second the song is over, it's a bit like saying to your audience "Snap out of it!" Give them a chance to enjoy the feeling of having really gotten involved in your emotion, by staying in the emotion for a few seconds after you finish your song.
- Silences in the songs | You just finished the chorus and there is a musical break. Oh, my God, what to do with your body and face during these 10 to 15 seconds? A tip! Stay in the emotion of what you have just said or enter into the emotion that is coming next. It's called living in the silence.
- Between songs | Prepare your transitional texts and learn them like you would learn lines in a play (unless you are really good at improvisation). You need a direction and if it lasts more than 30 seconds, you better make it as interesting as a cow dancing disco. A tip! Recite your texts aloud until they sound as natural as possible. It shouldn't feel like you've memorized a text.
- A few sentences to avoid |
- The next song.... (ah... are you going to sing us another song?! Well, what a wonder! We were expecting a Tupperware product demonstration!)
- You know, in life... (yes we do... in life... we get it... Next!)
- Sorry, I have a cold...
- A tip! Rather than say, "The next song is a song about the time we were all at a family party and Uncle Jim decided it would be a good idea to make everyone laugh by waltzing with the Christmas turkey that Aunt Gertrude had spent all day cooking", remove the first sentence and just go with it, "We were all at a family party and Uncle Jim decided it would be a good idea..."
8. Tune your instrument BEFORE the show | If you need to tune your instrument between each song, it's a problem. Find the cause and remedy the situation before the day of the show.
9. Clothing | I'm not a stylist, but with a little bit of good judgment, you'll find the right look! You have a date with your audience tonight... Put in a little effort!
10. A desire to provide an experience for your audience | In my opinion, this is the most important point. The audience will not remember everything little thing that has been said and seen, but they will remember for a long time how they felt. I have attended shows that I forgot two hours after it was done, and I have attended shows that still haunt me ten years later. When I was at Cirque du Soleil, I was often asked how I could get on stage more than 400 times a year without losing the desire to give the audience a great experience. My answer: Every time I go on stage, I tell myself that in that room, there is one person who is attending their very first show and another person who attending their very last one. What can I do as an artist to be worthy of this moment that life offers me?