A discussion on stage presence, showmanship, and how to be a better entertainer, regardless of your skills.
Watchability is a trait that any performer should strive to develop. To some, it comes much more naturally than others. It doesn’t matter if you’re a juggler, magician, musician or actor. If you are watchable, other performers will envy you because you seem to be able to “do no wrong” on stage. They may even be jealous because you might seem to be able to give a better show with less skill. And if you are skilled at your craft and watchable, look out!
What makes one performer more watchable than other performers? In this series of articles, I’d like to talk about 3 things that make you more watchable. Showmanship, stage presence, and like-ability.
Do you have showmanship? Is it important that you do? If you are a performer, I would argue that it is extremely important that you have it. The bad news is, not everyone has it. The good news is, I believe that anyone can learn good showmanship. I’ve been told that I have it, but I’m just a quite, average guy in real life, so what’s the secret?
Webster’s New Universal Unabridged dictionary defines showmanship as, “the art of being a showman; skill as a showman.” It defines a showman as, “a person who is skilled at presenting anything in an interesting or dramatic manner.”
The first thing that jumps out at me in these definitions is skill. A showman is skilled at presenting. One of the books I picked up this past year was entitled “I Can See You Naked.” The subtitle was: “America’s best book on making presentations strikes again.” This was actually a book for business professionals who make business presentations. In my search for a more effective presentation, I picked it up.
I learned a great deal from this book, and to wet your appetite I’ll pass along a few points that have helped me tremendously.
Don’t wait for laughs. If you get them, fine. But don’t wait around for them. Keep right on going.
Don’t laugh at your own jokes. Let the audience laugh, and you rejoice inwardly that they’re having a good time.
Unless you’re a standup comedian, or a stand up style act, Don’t build a presentation around a bunch of jokes you’ve collected. Fit relevant bits and pieces of humour INTO and AROUND your routines.
People are more likely to laugh when they’re seated close together. If they’re scattered about with empty seats in between, you’re going to get less response to everything. Part of my pre-show room check is to make sure that the audience will be sitting close together. If this means having the back rows taped off, then so be it.
You must be able to see them and they must be able to see you.
Last night I did a show where the lighting was TERRIBLE. Luckily, I had brought some of my own lights and it made the situation 100 times better. When you are having a conversation with a person you look at their face, and into their eyes. If you can’t see a person, you can’t communicate as effectively! I have rented multi-light systems with stands for $60 and it makes the show SO MUCH MORE professional.
Speaking of watchability: watch for part 2 soon.