Just got home from another great poetry Open Mic in the Triangle. The two featured poets were great, as were most of the 17 poets, including yours truly, in the open mic. One young man in particular stood out to me. His poem was so poignant and tender it made me cry (which is a good thing with poetry). Unfortunately, when he got to the mic, the first thing he said was, “This is one of my early poems, so I apologize if the quality is not very good.”
He and I had a little impromptu coaching session during the after-mingle, and I decided that I would share my tips with you as well. Besides, it’s been a while since I posted. Holy Crap! My last post was October?! Wow. But I’m not going to apologize; and that so happens to be the number one piece of advice I have for you tonight.
When you take the stage to read a poem, sing, play an instrument, give a speech or perform comedy, Do Not Apologize. Most people, myself included, are their own worst critic. It takes years of honing one’s craft, and receiving feedback to work it all out. If you are a newbie poet, singer, speaker, you probably don’t know how your performance is going to land with your audience until you deliver it.
You may have a really good poem (song, whatever) that has won an award or been published, but the audience that night doesn’t like it. You can tell because the applause you receive will be short and polite. The reverse is true as well. You may have a poem that would be completely dismissed by experts in the field but the audience loves it and responds enthusiastically. Finally, you can perform the same piece in front of different audiences and get completely different reactions. Trust me, the audience wants to be entertained. I know I do when I have my butt in that hard folding chair. Please don’t give me a reason to not like you before you even start.
Now that you know what to not to do, what should you do? Be confident. If you are smirking right now and thinking, “easier said than done,” smirk no more. Create confidence by doing your best work; get feedback from people you trust if you need it. Create confidence by preparing, and rehearsing. Create confidence by putting your best, non-drunken, foot forward, like a BOSS!
You can do it. I believe in you.