,One of the things I have always loved is a good street performance. When a source of incredible musical talent positions themselves street-side somewhere, it's like there is some trigger in my DNA that literally compels me to stop and engage. And lose myself for a few moments in someone's genius, in the moment where they choose to share it.
There is a fine art to being able to perform well on any stage, but there is a particular art in itself, to being able to stay resilient in standing on a public stage you just created of your own accord, that nobody walking past was necessarily expecting, or had consciously invited, or been invited to be a part of...until the second they walked up the street and realised they were about to become a part of it.
1. Mental mastery and mastery of their state- turning the Kung Fu of reaction into a synchronous dance of response
Firstly, no matter how old you are, there is nothing like standing out in public and choosing to make yourself the centre of attention in a public space, to trigger all your unresolved stuff about being seen and judged. About feeling wanted, about feeling likeable and worthy of love, about being enough, about being respected, about being heard and acknowledged, about being able to stand in your power (in a non confrontational way) and hold your boundaries, about wether what you’ve got to say or play is something people appreciate and hence deemed “of value” and “worth saying.” And especially, especially about being loved or rejected by the tribe.
On some level, we all carry the remnants of some very primal wounding around that we need to deal with at some point. But in a world where, presently, massive change is wanted and people are tending to go about it in one of 3 main ways; either by BEING the love and the change they wish to see, OR, feeling sufficiently triggered enough with the perceived injustice within a situation and how it was handled, they rebel against the establishment and try and smash what doesn't work for them or the collective wellbeing apart, or they simply stick their head in the virtual, digital sand, the consequences of speaking against or with the tribe, is as relevant as ever.
In other words, choosing to fly well and truly ON the radar, and open oneself up to judgement in either direction, positive or critical, can massively trigger your unresolved stuff. And will bring into sudden sharp awareness, where all your defensive (self protective) patterning lies, in the process of revealing who we really are and what we’re really all about.
When our ultimate goal (of speaking, or performing) is usually to connect meaningfully, to be inviting to those willing to watch and be positively impactful by way of the sharing of our magic, all the triggered stuff in our head, unfortunately can, at times, have the exact OPPOSITE effect on your audience. They may not be able to outwardly SEE a reason why to explain it. But, unless you deal with it, they may well feel the effects of the vibe you’re sending out. For example, they may well feel a reaction to all your defences. So that your talent draws them in, but the non verbal “don’t you f@#$ with me” or your “@#$k you for not putting money in their hat!" vibes then have a repelling nature, and become a determining factor in whether they stay and become a fan, start posting lovely things about you on social and maybe buy your CD. Or whether they feel the urge to walk away, with their friend going ‘far out, did you see/feel the attitude on that guy?”
The more 'negs' going on in your head, the more you might inadvertently push them away and block the possibility of them wanting to meaningfully interact with you. The more you're looking for and expecting the best of people, the more able they are to show up as that.
Great performers seemingly make it look almost effortless. But, in reality, it’s not. They have a high degree of mental mastery and mastery of their state, to be able to stay present and grounded, to ensure they stay in the zone of performance plus responsiveness, and above the zone of reaction. And those who are highly interactive in engaging or facilitating engagement with the audience, have cultivated a high level of self awareness, to be able to ‘dance’ with the audience in a way that looks less like an energetic psychological kung fu battle for power, recognition and influence, and more like a synchronous exchange, in which the performer/presenter both leads and lives the flow of moves and their musical magic.
Two more things that set great performers apart, that have their own applications for Speakers/Presenters/Leaders:
2. Guru/Celebrity/Person of Influence or no, good manners still go a long way.
Regardless of whether they’ve made themselves available on a stage, or as Ellen eloquently pointed out in her “Relatable” stand up comedy comeback piece, RE being out in public and being unexpectedly recognised, when you’re in your car, you’re Ellen and somebody cuts you off and you want to go nuts at them, but you realise you’re now known globally for being the “be kind to each other” lady and have THAT to live up to; when people approach the celeb, within reason of the confines of the circumstance, they do their best to acknowledge and engage with their audience member, in a culturally recognised, well-mannered way.
For the street performer on a Sydney street, if someone approaches you to put money in your case, pick up a card or buy a CD, that makes it really easy. Basic social protocol dictates that, if they’re giving you something, thanks and nice big smiles of love, warmth and gratitude are in order.
3. Looking for the “moments” you can share.
Another thing that makes a brilliant performer, is their ability to stay present to the people around them in the space, and find little ways to include them, WHILE doing the juggling act of their magic. That is sure not easy when you’re trying to play a complex musical piece, sing and be sociable all at the same time. It takes practice to rise above both “concentration face” or the grey, emotionless, blank-faced, fight-flight coping reaction we can have to a perceived external threat (whether real in the present, or a learned defence to the memory of an incident of long ago. )
But, with repetition and practice, good performers get good at looking for the moments they can share with you. Like the moment a couple is moved by your piece. Or someone laughs with you at a tricky bit. Or at a moment the other kind of genius (and there’s always a few of them,) walks straight through the middle of your impromptu stage.... and you connect with the audience members who were offended on your behalf, over wondering if whoever it was that just gate-crashed your stage, is really for real right now.
What relevance does this have to all of you? Seemingly gone are the days of being able to negotiate a contract in which you could dictate exactly how and when you gave your permission to be filmed, or when you could have a stunt butt come in for a close up of your left butt cheek before you, say, step onto a known global filming space, like Bondi Beach, scantily dressed. These days, everyone with a phone is a roving reporter with a camera and all the world is a stage. And social media is the online stage equivalent, where, every time you put your content or opinion on social, it’s not that far removed from the experience of the street performer, in how it suddenly shows up (expected or unwanted) in their feed. A bunch of people will be pleasantly delighted to see it suddenly appear unexpectedly in their feed. While some will want to hit the “hide” or “unfollow” buttons. So the lessons of personal resilience and how to invite and engage a positive experience, are not dissimilar, if on a different medium of communication.
If you’re interested in discussing more strategies that will help you better thrive while being seen and heard on stage, plus more meaningfully engage and relate with your live and online audiences, feel free to reach out to me for a chat here.
Until next time, have fun, take care
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.