My sister and I are often asked to sing at family funerals. Weddings, too, but we are old enough that the funerals have outnumbered the weddings in recent years.
People often ask me if I get nervous when singing in public and I say – absolutely! I believe it’s very natural to get nervous before any kind of performance: singing a song, acting in a play, making a pitch, speaking up in a meeting.
It’s part of the fun of being a human communicator. What’s more, you can’t predict when or why something may throw you when giving a live performance.
It always comes back to rehearsal. Rehearsal is the cornerstone of your success. If you rehearse over and over, you get a familiarity with the material, and how you physically deliver the message – that will help you handle – calmly – anything that may happen.
Let’s say you’re singing, and you hit a wrong note. You may want to crumple up in despair, or sing an apology, but time and meter won’t allow you to stop. So, you self-correct and sing the next notes correctly. When speaking, it’s the same thing. It’s better not to apologize, but to simply correct the word, phrase or thought and move on.
People /audiences don’t expect us to be perfect. They just want us to be fine. They want to get a sense that we’re good and still in control so they can relax and enjoy whatever it is we’re giving them.
My clients tell me all the time, “I do really well in meetings when I am alone with the client. When my boss joins me, that’s when I get uncomfortable and do less well.”
I call that “sideways presenting.” It’s when you are as worried about impressing the people sitting on either side of you as you are about connecting with the client across the table. It’s a fact of our business lives that we will be presenting alongside colleagues. How to stay as strong and capable with them as you are alone?
It comes back to rehearsal and preparation. Ten minutes of time to outline who will speak to what topic in a meeting and to practice the key messages with each other before saying them to a client can bolster your confidence. It will make the team pull in the same direction and give you a chance of being believable when you say, “We work as a team.”
[By the way, I am convinced that everyone says “we work as a team” in every meeting. Just as often as they say they are unique, differentiated, and excited – but that’s another article.]
When singing with my sister, we always make sure to meet and work with the organist before the actual event. In our rehearsal, my sister and I worked out who had mastery of which songs, and what the order of the songs should be. We made agreements about when to harmonize and when to sing solo. And there is always the implicit understanding that if either one of us were suddenly overcome – by tears – or laryngitis – or nerves – the other sister would step forward and take the microphone and continue on. It’s a wonderful feeling when you know someone has your back.
I’m happy to say that we did well with our singing. We were mindful that it was an honor to be asked to sing for the memory of our aunt, and we took the time to hug each other along the way. There was one moment when I was overcome with tears and had to sing immediately after. I realized that I couldn’t read the music at that time (foggy glasses and bad lighting) but relaxed because I knew the song well enough to sing from memory. I had prepared enough. We harmonized and made music.
The bottom line is that rehearsal gives you the power to be in the moment and to bring your message home.