Your Speaking Skills Can Make You a Better Music Performer
It’s interesting to compare the articles written on how to give an exciting speech with how to put on an exciting show. I have not seen that many articles for musicians on that topic. Fortunately, the two topics are fairly similar. So it is easy to transpose public speaking articles to live gig articles.
Speech writers know that you have to grab the audience’s attention in 30 seconds. That’s where you make your biggest impact. If you ever see a musician get up on stage and fumble a “Hi. Um. We’re the Barnyard Owls,” you know what I mean.As musicians, we can grab the audience’s attention with a song. But it helps to think about other ways to captivate your audience too.
Wasn’t it KISS who used to shout, “Are you ready to rock!” The phrase might sound cliche now, but it serves the point. KISS knew you had to draw your audience in fast to make an impact and put on a great show.
Or perhaps you prefer non-verbal hooks. You can use a light show. Or imagine band members quitely meditating next to their instruments before they jump up and rock the house.In one of the speech writing articles I remember reading you should provide five ‘Magic Moments’. Apparently, this is something that movie promoters say is essential for a film to have a successful ad campaign… that will make the movie a hit. That seems like good advice for a live show too.
I remember seeing Ed Miller at the Texas Scottish Festival last year. He is Scottish-born and told a story about how he had to cross the Rio Grande illegally in the 60s to get back into the United States. It made him feel like he too was a “Wetback”. Then he sang the song telling the story. My mind has a clear image of that day hearing that story. That was a Magic Moment for me that still gives me chills thinking about it.Some of your Magic Moments might come from telling a story about the song like Ed Miller did. Others might be the song itself. Is it chilling or powerful. Does it make people cry, cheer, sway, or sing-a-long.
Sometimes the Magic Moment will be the way you sing or move. I remember the first time I saw some “shoegazing” and the first time someone ran up the side of a wall and did a flip. I remember someone throwing a pen towards their sales table to encourage people to sign up to their mailing list. I also remember meeting band members after a show when they took the time to say, “Thanks. And your name is?”
Just like you need a great intro, you also need a great Closer. Boy, I’m guilty of having bad closers. We end all of our shows with a sing-a-long of Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life“. It’s a great closer, but too often, the show is over and the audience is still hanging around thinking there will be more to come.
Obviously, I’m not the person to give advice on this topic. So create your own closer. I’ve seen the unified bow of the band members; the strong and simple, “Thank you and good night!”; or band members running through the audience to accept tips. There are still a lot of different possibilities.
There are a lot of similarities between live shows and public speaking. I’d suggest you read some articles on how to write a speech and see what they have to say on the topic. You may be surprised at just how easily those techniques will give you a live show.
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© 2000-2014 Marc Gunn -- Austin, Texas