After all the practice we do to prepare the music most of us are caught in a terrible bind when we hit stage and suddenly have to talk to the audience between songs. As good as our musical performance may be, if our stage craft doesn't include preparation for the conversation with the audience we have left a huge part of our performance up to chance. And that usually leads to feeling awkward, saying stupid stuff we didn't mean, long wandering intro's that kill the vibe etc. The worst is "this next song is called blankety blank, I hope you like it". Although thats where most of us go, it's so cliche and in no way allows the audience feeling engaged or interested.
My first piece of advice is don't leave the stage patter to chance.
You Are The Party Host!
This is your opportunity to tell your story, let us into your world and who you are as a person and as an artist.
If you think of yourself as hosting your show the way you might host a party, it will help you make some decisions around what you choose to talk about. Imagine yourself hosting an informal evening at your residence, greeting your guests at the door. What you say and your manner of speaking lets them know what to expect for the evening. If you give them a little guided tour, taking their coats and asking what they would like to drink you are preparing them for a very different experience than if you tell them to throw their coats on the bed, grab a drink in the kitchen and enjoy themselves.
Your stage patter is going to let the audience know what kind of a party to expect.
Bring Them Into Your World!
Every thing you say reveals more about who you are. Thats why we go to see our heroes in concert. We are eager to know more about who they are and what makes them tick.
So it's good to give the audience a window into your world.
YES They will want to know about your day. What your reality has been about before stepping on the stage. It will reveal more about who you are and why they might want to listen to your material.
YES They will want to know how you came to write a song. What you are trying to express and communicate in that piece of music. You are handing them a key to unlock the material when you explain your process.
Most importantly be yourself. Who you really are is always going to be the most interesting to the world.
Not your idea of what might be entertaining or engaging.
Your honesty and integrity about who you are is the biggest gift you can give your audience.
My Stage Fright Shuts Me Up!
Most of us find that our nerves are most evident when we have to speak on stage. The best advice I can give is to make sure you PLAN out what you want to say so you have a basic road map of where you are going. Writing it out and rehearsing it through in advance will give you confidence and provide a place of safety when your mind goes blank.
If writing out what you are going to say feels too scripted for you at least plan what you want to cover in your intro's, otherwise the possibility of talking too long, or not being able to talk at all because of nerves can happen to the best of us!
Do I Need to Be Funny?
No you do not need to be funny. BUT a lot of us use humour to diffuse our nerves and that can end up to be both entertaining for the audience and a release of the pressure valve for us. IF humour works for you when you are nervous on a first date or at a party then it can work on stage too.
Being awkward and shy, or goofy and ridiculous are all human and can work to our advantage when we aren't feeling confident. The idea is to be as real as possible with your audience within the context of performing for them. They will always be attracted to the truth more than your pretending not to be nervous or scared.
Keep Solving The Problem!
So, there are some ideas about how to approach talking on stage. Learning to be relaxed and confident as we talk to the audience is a process and we don't get good at it all at once. There is no right way to prepare for this, no hard and fast rules about how to prepare.
I suggest you see performers in concert as much as possible for a period of time while you are working out your stage patter. That will give you a lot of ideas about what works and what doesn't and suggest new ways of communicating that you might not have thought have.
As you try different approaches take note of what seems to work and listen to the feedback you get from the audiences. They will tell you whats working simply by their level of attention and engagement IF you are listening and paying attention to them!
And isn't that what communication is all about?
Micah Barnes coaches private and group workshops in Voice and Performance in Canada and the USA.