A performer walks on stage to start a concert.  They seem uncomfortable, maybe even a bit scared.  They look down at the floor as they enter.

How will the audience react to this musician?  Will they be enthusiastic and eager to listen to the performance?

In this situation, audiences usually feel embarrassed and worried that they will be hearing a timid, difficult performance.  Audiences do not want to feel this way–whether they’ve paid top dollar for great seats at an expensive venue or they’re at a free children’s recital.

Audiences want to be led by the musicians on stage.  They want to feel comfortable and comforted.  If you’re the musician about to start the performance, you owe it to yourself and to your audience to enter the stage in such a way that everyone realizes they’re in for something special.

I was at a public speaking workshop put on by Ovson Communications recently, and this point was hammered home.  Public speaking and performing music have a lot in common.  In both cases there is someone on stage leading an audience.  The audience’s expectations are high, and it’s up to the person on stage to take control of the room.

At this workshop, the leaders demonstrated various uses of body language that turn off audiences when a performer enters the stage: stooped shoulders, staring at the floor, walking slowly, frowning.  Then, they showed how to engage the audience when entering: shoulders back, walking purposefully, smiling, looking individual audience members in the eye.

Then, each of us participating in the workshop got to practice taking the stage.  It is amazing how different it feels when you purposefully take control of the stage and the audience.  I felt more confident and more ready to speak to the audience.

Controlling the stage is something you can practice at home.  If you’ve got a performance coming up, treat your practice room like the stage.  Leave the practice room for a couple minutes.  Then, when you’re ready to do a performance runthrough, re-enter your practice space–just as you would if you were in front of an audience.

Take your time before you start playing.  Visualize your audience beineager to hear you play.  Feel the confidence pouring out of you.

When you take the stage confidently, you will feel more calm, relaxed, and ready to perform!