If You’re Going To Talk, Talk Like You Mean It

 

For some artists, stage banter is just a box they check.

“Oh, I’m between songs. I need to say something…”

And so they proceed to yak about whatever. Maybe it’s about what the next song means to them, or something. Who knows. You only get about 10% of it, because they do at least one of the following things:

They might speak very quietly, getting lost in audience chatter or other goings-on.

They might drop the mic down to their chest, or for bonus points, their navel. Their speech sounds very thin and distant as a result. (And even quieter.)

They might mumble.

They might prattle away at high speed.

They might use 50 words to convey a 10 word concept.

Very quickly, they start to lose the crowd. The audience’s attention drifts away, like a canoe filled with restless river otters. Nobody can figure out precisely what’s going on, so the focus on the stage drops away. The energy level craters.

As near as I can tell, the trouble comes from not realizing that the entire time you’re on stage, you’re performing – or rather, that’s what’s expected. If you stop performing, the emotional connection between you and the “folks” starts to get scratchy and intermittent.

The audience wants to be lead on a journey, and they will go where the band takes them…but only for as long as they feel like the leaders know where they’re going. If you seem to be meandering aimlessly, the spectators unconsciously dismiss you from your space at the front of the pack.

The solution?

If you’re going to talk, make the talking actually feel like part of the show. It should be obvious to the crowd that you are still asking for their attention.

1) Make an effort to get your speech to “concert level.” You don’t have to be annoyingly loud, but the overall volume should be comparable to your singing voice. This helps to telegraph that, yes, the performance is still happening.

2) To aid in the above, use the mic as you normally would. Park it in front of your mouth, where the element will receive your voice at the highest relative level possible. This will help your speech to be crisp, intelligible, and also tonally rich – all things that signal that you’re still in the captain’s chair.

3) Form your words deliberately and precisely. Especially in an acoustically challenging environment, talking like you have marbles in your mouth makes you incomprehensible. Incomprehensible people don’t hold the attention of audiences very well.

4) Slow down. Not painfully slow – that’s just as bad – but leave a touch of space between words and sentences. Running everything together is rather like mumbling.

5) Get your message across in as few words as possible. I’m not saying that you can’t go on a five minute monologue if that’s what you want to do, but I am asking that every word in that monologue actually be necessary. Rambling might feel to you like you’re saying a lot, but it’s actually a momentum killer that conveys very little.

If your stage banter actually feels like part of the show, it enhances the experience. If it feels like some weird afterthought, it will get treated in accordance with that perception.

  • Bob Timney

    This is spot on. The only thing missing is the word “enunciate.” Especially on bad PA systems. If your words are not clear, you lose the crowd quickly.