Connecting with Your Audience
Hi, there! Hope all’s well with you and your singing. We’re gonna discuss today a topic that is very close to my heart, simply because I’m really bad at it! I’m an introvert, see and being in the spotlight is not my idea of fun. Nevertheless, being a musician, and more recently a singer, I do get called to perform my craft during functions such as company dinners, conferences, reunions, weddings, etc.
Being mostly a hobby musician, I sometimes find it very hard to connect with the audience in a convincing way. It’s like trying to have a conversation with a bunch of people who don’t trust you. I have been working on improving this for a while. I remember my first performance where I was so nervous I couldn’t even look at the crowd. I’ve come a long way from that, but still far from being as engaging with the audience as I would like.
Connecting with your audience: how to go about it
I am still learning in this area, so this is some insight that I’ve got from previous experiences where I messed up badly. The main thing about being a singer is selling the song. That’s what I perceive to be the role of a singer. With that in mind, who are you selling to? In my experience, it helps if before the performance, you go around the room and get to know the audience whom you are about to sing to.
This is something I neglected to do in the past, and paid dearly in terms of audience participation. Even though I knew the audience on an acquaintance level, that did not seem to help (I was singing for my colleagues for the company dinner). What I should’ve done was to go around the room and do some catching up and warming them up for the show. Unless of course, you are a well established singer in your niche.
What if you’ve done the above step, but you’re still unsure about how to go about the performance to gain the best quality of rapport possible given the limited time? If the audience are total strangers, doing the mingling might only give them the benefit of the doubt, at best. If you do the performance right, that may be all you need.
In my experience, whenever I’m on stage, the thing that screws me up the most is hesitation. I often get stuck in my mind as to what is appropriate to do in the moment. I end up playing it too safe, or overcompensating and turning the audience off. This stems from two sides of us that are alter-egos of themselves. Bear with me here..
On one end, you have the selfish, all-eyes-on-me diva/rockstar aspect of the mind. This aspect overflows with confidence, does everything with authority, seldom right but never in doubt. The other side is more selfless, thinking in terms of service to the audience, focused on making them comfortable, self-deprecating humour, etc.
Which one is the best? What I find is that either one works good. But you HAVE to choose. The times that I get in trouble is when I am undecided as to whether I’m selfish or selfless. It makes sense, actually. If your mind always has to decide between two extremes, and the subdivisions of the subdivisions of those two extremes, you’ll always come across as awkward and hesitant no matter what you do.
But if you make up you mind that “Tonight, I’m the star!” everything will become clearer. There are no tricky choices, there’s only one decision to act upon. The mind functions best this way, and ideas flow freely. The same thing for the “At your service” attitude.
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana was of the selfish example. He never, ever considered what the audience wanted, neither did he care. He was there to get his message across, and he did it with so much authority and urgency that the listeners felt compelled to follow. He never asked anyone to follow him, but people copied his hair, his fashion sense, they paid to see his concerts, and he basically revived the grunge scene on a global scale.
The Beatles, on the other hand, were more service oriented. Their early years performing in Hamburg forced them to learn how to relate to an audience who did not understand neither the culture nor the language behind their songs. But once they mastered that, they practically exploded into worldwide attention! Their stage presence was very non-threatening, even new audiences felt instant rapport with the band, and boy did they sell!
These are two examples of how simplifying things in your mind might help a lot. This choice is more difficult to make because staying in the middle is obviously more comfortable. But when the curtains are raised you do have to make a choice. Whatever your choice is, make sure you choose! Happy singing! =)