There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, the same holds mostly true for performing at an Open Mic show. However, there are a number of ways to interact with the mic and an audience that are certain to help you make make more out of the whole experience.
Most people don’t regularly have an opportunity to speak before an audience. When the time comes, we begin to experience doubt in our ability to communicate. The doubt festers allowing clouds of fear to coalesce and follow us onto the stage. This is happens to everybody. The difference between beginners and more experienced performers is that those who have had more opportunities to perform simply have had more time to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of a stage performance. It’s like a language, or a bike, you get more comfortable with it once you spend more time on it. As a result, you begin to take more risk and all the sudden that Pad Kaprow Gai dish you have been ordering everyday for the past 3 months, from that same spot you eat at before you hop on the BTS, starts to get ordered less frequently as your vocabulary expands and you are able to communicate more effectively. Along the way there, those with more experience have picked up certain insights that help to develop practices that do away with all those clouds of fear and doubt that loom above.
Below is a small list of certain insights wrapped into what we’ve dubbed the MIC Manual, filled with tid bits of wisdom that most performers become privy to along their journey of honing their craft and developing their talent to become more effective communicators and prolific performers.
Its not about you
Sure, you wrote your piece, and yes, it was you who practiced it in the mirror a hundred times. Maybe it draws from your own personal experience. But if you’ve gotten behind that mic without suffocating the voice inside the says “I”, then the poem you came to recite will take a backseat to the jittery mess on the stage that’s worried about looking or sounding foolish. Most people who are overcome by fear of the stage, don’t realize that they have superficial fears about being on stage that have a root in the ego, so kill it. This section was going to be called “Kill your Self” because that’s what you need to do to. Whoever that is, peaking into time-space from behind your two eyeballs, should be deceased by the time your foot steps onto the stage. That person is who brings fears and anxieties to the stage with them, that person won’t serve the one serving the poem. Take that mask off. Act as if you are finally home from a long day of school and have just removed your uniform.
The very moment you step off stage. that person will be back, but for now you need to take them out. Allow the piece you’ve written to occupy the stage AND your voice.
Think of wind as the universe’s lubricant. When we jam up like a traffic on a Friday evening, it’s nothing a little bit of wind can’t fix up. Breathe it in. Before you utter a single word, take a drag of some good ole O2 to grease up your nerves so that your piece can slide of your tongue like a fresh oyster off its shell. Your words have no power without the wind that carries them, why wouldn’t you give them a full charge before letting them go? Inhale, deep.
Do NOT Apologize
It doesn’t matter that it’s a sad one, or an angry one, or a sappy one. Nobody cares that you don’t have your piece memorized yet. Do NOT Apologize to any one once you’ve stepped on that stage. Just don’t do it.
Just GO Already!
You don’t need to qualify or justify your piece with a preface that explains why it exists. Just let it out and let it be. Nobody came to the show for your behind-the-scenes documentary, we came for the finished product. Most people do not realize how much stage time they eat up explaining themselves before they share their piece. Those who do often end up using up more time to explain the piece than it takes for the actual poem or song to be performed. Along the way, they’ve burned through about 15 or so minutes that someone else who sign up could have used. Just GO Already!
Make Eye Contact
There is a hidden power that builds inside a speaker who can use their gaze to entice and entangle their audience into a web of words. Eyes do about 80% of the job when you are communicating anything. You’d be shocked to know how many performers take the stage, never to look their audience in the face and acknowledge the recipients of their message. We get it, you’re nervous but you’re reciting to the audience not at the audience, so keep that audience engaged, look them in the eye.
Perform just ONE piece. One song. One poem. ONE thing. It shows respect to the audience and to the performers who you will share the stage with.
The worst feeling in the world is having to explain to someone who has signed up to perform that there’s no more time left for their performance. It’s worse when the reason is because someone took the mic for a 10 minute joyride. We avoid this by performing one piece, keeping it below 5 minutes, and moving on so the next performer can take the stage with out feeling rushed, or worse, slighted. It lets everybody know that you appreciate the attention being given to you and that you are not going to make people regret having given it to you in the first place.
It happens to every. single. body. You’re on stage, halfway through your carefully crafted wordsauce performance, and you’ve come to a sudden and complete stop, like a deer caught in headlights. You find yourself in the precarious situation of drawing a blank and forgetting what to say next despite having rehearsed this one meticulously wringing out the hiccups like a well spun spin cycle. Alas, you still get caught off guard. Maybe it’s because this time you started to look at folks in the eye and one person caught you off guard. It happens. It happens to everyone. Those hiccups and stumbles are a natural part of breaking in a new piece. It never stops happening. You are guaranteed to mess up. But what nobody realizes is the simple fact that nobody knows.
You who are on stage, in the midst of delivery, are the only one who is likely aware of any blunder you commit. If the audience becomes aware of this, it’s always the case that you’ve allowed them to know it by telling everyone. Nobody knows your poem, or song, but you. Even if they’ve heard it before, nobody knows. Its usually during these force freestyle moments where we find that we come up with the most creative additions to a performance. Just breathe easy and go with flow till you’ve regained control. It’s okay, nobody knows.
Treat each and every time you go on stage as like a trial in a scientific experiment. Each time you go up to make use of the mic you should be running experiments like astronauts on a space walk. You aren’t there to just enjoy a killer view of the planet from low-Earth orbit, that’s only just one the perks of the job. Every time you’re up there is an opportunity to gain new insights about your piece, about people, about your Self… But it only works if that’s your intention. You have to want to gain those insights so as to further develop your piece, with the goal of improving it for the next time.
The real reason most of us tend to mess up or be overcome by fear when in front of an audience is because we make the whole thing about ourself and not about the words we are sharing. Go forth with the purpose of learning, and you forget to be fearful.
If your ready, join us at our next open mic show.