Getting in the right headspace for a performance can be one of the hardest things for a performer to do. This video looks at three simple things you can do to help you be the best you in a performance.
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Hi I’m Hattie Voelcker from findyourtruevoice.co.uk and this is number two in my series of blogs looking at the practical things that performers have to think about when preparing, and doing, a performance.
So my first one was on the best way to remember your words, and this one is going to be looking at preparation. After the last vlog somebody asked me to take a look at or do preparation. If there’s something you’d like me to look at then just drop me a line either in the comments or send me a message and let me know what you’d like me to take a look at.
For today it’s preparation. We won’t be looking at long term preparation, we’ll be looking at the shorter term preparation. What you can do just before you go on to get the best from yourself.
There are obviously practical physical things you can do, like warming up the voice and warming body, going over your words (if that’s what helps you) but I’m going to be looking more at perspective. How to shift your perspective about yourself during preparation to go on with the best attitude for getting the most from yourself.
I’m going to be taking a look at three things (and the third thing is the best thing – always to keep the best for last!) First is something you can do both way ahead of time, and also just before you go on. It’s something that really, really helped me in my performances and in my life. It’s naming your fears. Name them to tame them.
So often when we have fears we push them down, we box them up, we pack them away somewhere in the back of our heads. Somewhere down inside, it’s physical that way. We try and ignore them and this could be for a number of reasons. It can be because we’re worried that it’s going to overwhelm us, and we’re worried that if we bring it up it’s going to distract us, and make everything worse and that we’re not actually going to even be able to perform at all. So we think that it’s much better to push it down and ignore it. To stride on, and push forward.
The truth is fears are a bit like the name Voldemort in Harry Potter. So many people wouldn’t say the name Voldemort and, by not saying the name, not only do they give the man more power, they actually gave the name itself some sort of mystical power, and it grew more and more, in that power. The lessthey would say it, the more afraid they were of saying it. So then they have not only a fear of man and a fear of the name, they then had a fear of saying the name. That’s what it could be like with our fears. The reality isjust like Voldemort, our fears are never as big when we say them out loud. When Harry Potter said the name Voldemort it took away from that power. It made you realise that actually saying the name is nothing. So talking about your fears, the first step, in itself shouldn’t be a scary thing. Then when you talk about your fears you’ll almost always realise that they’re smaller than you thought. If your fear is of being judged, there’s barely ever anyone in the audience that is even possibly wanting the worst to happen. Generally none of them at all! So when we face that fear, we realise that our audience is on our side, they want us to do well. So our fear of judgement can grow and grow and grow, but in reality, the prospect of what we fear actually happening, is so much smaller. However, the more we don’t acknowledge that fear, the bigger it is in our heads. The more space it takes up in our head.
I have a client who was worried about showing her nerves on stage. So we talked about that, and she said was she was afraid of the shame she would feel of people seeing her being nervous. The reality is the vast majority of performers feel nervous at some level before they go on. Whether it’s just a level of excitement that what is about to happen could be amazing. It might not be, but it could be. So there’s that level of nerves or excitement going on. Every audience member knows that. They all know that that’s there. That those nerves might appear at times is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just a reality, and the more you think about being ashamed the more it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because the more afraid we are of showing our fears the more we’re simply adding to our fears and therefore more likely to show our fears.
Just as I said in the last video about remembering our words. What I find is the biggest hindrance to remembering words is the fear that we’ll forget them. The more we feel we’re going to forget, the more the more likely it is that we will forget them. So my first piece of advice is name your fears to tame them, because they’re never as big as you fear they’re going to be.
The second piece of advice is about how to set yourself in the room with your audience. Now that sounds nuts, because of course you’re in the room, unless you’re doing it online like I am, and even then I’m in your room at the moment. I’m talking about the fact that psychologically we might not be in the room. When we’re trying to get things right and we’re thinking about it and we’re processing and we’re worrying about getting it right our brains are not in the room. They’re somewhere else.
If we want to engage our audience we actually have to have not only our physical presence in the room, but our mental presence. Our minds have to be in the room. I find the best way to do this is to check into your environment. To really look at things. So right now I’m looking at leaves outside the window in front of me, looking at the colours.
Really looking at your audience, because basically they’re never as scary as you build them up to be in your head. Even when you can’t see your audience, or you’re not in the environment you will perform in, checking in with your environment is a hugely useful tool in preparation. We often avoid getting engaged with our environment (in the same way as with fears) for fear of overwhelmed with fear, that we will be overwhelmed by our environment. In that process, where we’re worrying and trying to organise our thoughts, to really prepare, we want to keep everything small and manageable, but by doing this we’re shutting ourselves away. We’re putting blinkers on, which is not helpful at all.
When we’re trying to make sure everything ready we might feel like our environment will be a distraction, or we’re afraid that people might clock either that we’re afraid, or they might realise that we are actually no good. So we think that if we keep ourselves away, if we keep ourselves tucked away then we’ll be safe. The reality is, in order to do a good performance, we have to engage with our audience. We have to be able to give and to receive, because performance is a dialogue, it’s a duologue. It’s a relationship with our audience. To do that we need to engage with our environment, and if we engage with our audience in preparation, then we are more likely to be open to doing it when we’re performing.
Being open allows for connection and engagement and that’s what people want, what audiences want from a performance. So that’s number two, engage with your environment.
Now number three and you will have heard this million times. It’s simple, but boy is it effective. The third tip is to breathe. It’s something that comes naturally. It is something that has a thousand and one benefits. One of which is life which is a benefit most of the time(!) but it’s something that can get tied up in knots.
One thing it does is it helps us with the other two tips I gave. It helps us get back into our body. When we breathe we get back into our bodies, and out of our heads. We can come away from our fears and into reality, so we’re not living in what might happen or what happened last time. It brings us into the now, it brings us into our bodies, and it also engages us with our environment.
For our mind, our body is a huge part of our environment and if we can engage with this environment, then we open ourselves up to the possibility of engaging with the room as an environment, and then with our audience as part of our environment, and that allows for connection.
Thirdly, it allows us to relax. When we’re thinking and worrying and concerned about what’s going to happen, we can start to hold on to everything and that includes our breath. We hold on to our breath as if holding on will give us more control and help us manage the situation, but we all know the reality. In order to perform well we have to have decent breaths. Whether it’s a singing performance, an acting performance, or a presentation. You have to breathe well. So allowing us to relax and let go a bit it enables our technique to be good, and it allows our body to do what our body does best. Our body is where our voices are.
If we breathe and allow our bodies to work well, it relaxes us. It engages with our environment. It gets us back in their bodies. It’s out of our heads and into the room. So we can give a good performance and connect with our audience.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this second one of my practical blogs. There are more to come!
If you like what I do, then take a look at my website at findyourtruevoice.co.uk where there’s a lot more about the work I do.
Enjoy the rest of this glorious day and I’ll see you soon.
Bye for now!