Improv skills lead to success

Archive for February 2013

Five Ways to Avoid Performance Burnout

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Performers of all kinds, whether you’re a keynote speaker, sales presenter, or actor, can fall into ruts. You’re especially at risk of getting bored with your material if you have to deliver the same content multiple times over several days. Even improvisers, who make up scenes as we go along, are prone to repetition. When you find a bit that works, it’s easy to keep going back to it regardless (or in spite of) the audience’s suggestion.

I’ve found these hints, culled from various other speakers and performers, to be a great help in avoiding burnout and boredom.

  1. Emphasize different words in a sentence. If you’re pitching a design service, you might start with “Our designers have more than 20 years of experience in the industry.” Next time, change the emphasis to say “Our designers have more than 20 years of experience in the industry.” Even this little change helps break the rhythm you’re used to, which keeps things fresh.
  2. Change the order of your topics. If you can rearrange the contents of your presentation, and if it makes sense for you to do so, change the order in which you deliver your material. You should consider applying this technique when you identify a client’s pain point and feel you should address it earlier rather than later in your talk.
  3. Take advantage of interactions outside of your performance or presentation. Too many actors and presenters walk into a room with their head down, ignoring everyone else and focusing on hooking up their computer, grabbing a bottle of water, and powering through their material so they canĀ go to lunch. Human interaction helps you connect to your audience and, more importantly, lets them connect to you. Don’t ignore or dismiss them–they’re the reason you’re there in the first place!
  4. Allow questions in the middle of your presentation. Speakers usually leave 5-10 minutes for questions at the end of their presentation, but doing so robs you of the opportunity to get feedback from your audience. You should know your material well enough so taking time out for questions doesn’t throw you off your game.
  5. Focus on your audience, both in your attitude and your material. Your audience cares what’s in it for them. It takes more work to customize your message for each audience, but it’s worth the time. They’ll appreciate the effort and will often provide additional information you can use to make your message even more effective.

Knowing and Respecting Your Audience

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How many times have you heard a prominent entertainer say something like this:

I create art that I enjoy and trust that my audience will feel my passion and live my dream with me.

This sentiment sounds great, but it’s just another variation on the “law of attraction” crap made popular by the book The Secret and used by preachers who rely on their congregation buying into the “gospel of prosperity” to fund their own lifestyles.

For every successful entertainer, there are tens of thousands (at least) who create art they love and yet, somehow, can’t get their audiences to buy into what they’re doing. It’s not because you don’t love what you do enough — your audience just has different tastes or your work isn’t of sufficient quality for them to appreciate it. Remember, your audience decides whether they’re entertained, not you.

That last bit can be hard to admit, especially for individuals who are new to a profession. Regardless of whether you’re a speaker, an entertainer, a writer, or a lawyer, you’ll suffer through significant growing pains while you figure out what works and what doesn’t. I’m not saying you should join the race to the bottom and crank out derivative drivel. Please, in the name of all that might or might not be holy, don’t. What you should do is put out the best product you can and listen intently to audience feedback. If they understand you want to improve and are putting forth your best effort, they’ll be much more likely to offer helpful advice instead of the normal platitudes.

And who knows — you might find someone who likes what you do and is willing to champion your work. It’s a numbers game, after all. The more work you do and the more you pay attention to and incorporate feedback from your audience, the more likely you are to entertain with art you love and connect with individuals who can help you.