By Josh Needham
The bright lights, the big stages, the whispers of the crowd; all of it waiting side stage in great anticipation of your next performance. Then the nerves set in. You go out on stage, give it all you got, get a nice applause but still find yourself wishing you’d done that little bit better. (Or a lot better!) So how do you make sure you can deliver at your maximum every time? What if there was some simple ways to improve your performance that everyone can do? And what if it had absolutely nothing to do with talent?
Every performer in the world has 3 super simple, easy-to-do tips that can help maximise their performance opportunities and could even be the tipping point that sends your career off into the stars. The wonderful news is, everyone can do it. So let’s get started!
1)Practise imagining the actual performance
This is crucial. When you practise at home, it’s an unrealistic environment. Why? Because you’re comfortable. That comfortability is your ideal-performance enemy. When you perform on stage there are a number of environmental differences that are vastly different to your living room or bedroom. These differences have a tendency to subtract in some way from your ideal performance standard. These could be differences in the microphone, the openness of the stage, the lights shining in your eyes, the foldback being too loud or too soft, your voice sounding different in the foldback, etc. The list is a long one but suffice to say, these differences add up to essentially distract you from doing what you do best; perform.
The easiest way to overcome this is to first visualise all of these things occurring when you practise. Visualisation is a very powerful practise tool and leading neuroscientists tell us your mind doesn’t know the difference between what is imaginary and what is real. Use this to your advantage and imagine the stage, imagine the lights, imagine the foldback, imagine the crowd, etc.
An enhanced version of this to give you every possible chance is to rent a proper rehearsal room at least once before your performance (or just every now and then if you perform regularly). This will give you the chance to perform with the microphone and the foldback, helping your imaginings be more real. You can still imagine the rest and if you’re really organised you can bring someone else along to give you feedback after you perform to help you improve. But even without someone else there, you are now wildly more professional than you were before.
2) Practise more than you think you need to
In the last point, we mentioned there are many differences that subtract from your performance. Because of this, let’s imagine your performance as a percentage, say 100%. Then imagine all these factors subtracting 1% here, 2% over here - eventually all adding up to eg. 20%. This means your performance standard is now only at 80%. So how to overcome this? Practise your performance until you are over-familiar or in other words beyond just being comfortable. You need to imagine you know it well enough that it is at 120% of what you need. That way, when the differences step in, they can lower your performance by 20% and you will still be at 100%! Always practise more than you think you need to.
3) Don’t just perform, learn to express
We use the words ‘performance’, ‘performing’, ‘to perform’, but what do we really mean by that? And what is a performance? Ultimately it is about expressing something innately human. You are communicating information, ideas and emotions to other human beings in the hope that they grasp that information, those ideas and feel those same emotions. This can’t be done if you’re only performing. You need to learn to express.
Expression is purer than performing. Why? Because an expression comes from something real, something honest. Performances can be faked. So if you want to increase the quality of your performances, understand that they are not just performances, but they are opportunities to express something real and honest to your audience. You have a chance to create a connection, to build a bridge with other people who have lives not that dissimilar to yours. It’s a precious moment in time of pure connection and honesty, where people can let their guard down and be real with one another. Expression creates vulnerabilities and in turn creates connections. Performances can potentially do the opposite. Know the difference and reach down deep to connect with what you are performing so that it becomes a part of you. This way you are far more likely to build a strong bridge with your audience where a secure, long-lasting and memorable connection can be enjoyed.
So, can imagining your performance, practising far more than you think you need to and learning to better express really improve your performance? Absolutely. They are all steps that can be applied immediately and easily, and the best part is, none of them are talent-based. It’s strategy-based. You can apply these steps immediately and practically to start achieving better performances every time. So what are you waiting for?! Go get ‘em tiger!
By Josh Needham
Co-Founder of Coach Music Academy, Josh Needham is a full time producer, songwriter and session musician, currently as Musical Director on the road with Harrison Craig for his Kings Of Vegas Lounge Sessions national tour.
Thank you for reading my latest blog! I hope that you can benefit and that through reading you can better take your performances to the next level! I would love to see you perform at our next Performance Afternoon and I would love to hear your feedback and hear about how these tips might have helped you, either just in your mental approach, and/or how they have practically improved your next performance. You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know your thoughts/experience and you can also join our mailing list. Thank you again for reading and I look forward to hearing from you!