SAY IT WITH ME NOW:
CROWD ENERGY, PARTICIPATION AND FOCUS
What is the future of local live entertainment, and what trends in our current landscape indicate that direction? Furthermore, how will that effect the presentation and structure of our shows moving forward? These are some of the questions I ponder, and try to discuss with every sizzling producer I meet. And the consensus is clear: audience interaction and participation is the train to ride into the sunset, if you want to see the sun rise in the morning. So how do we accommodate that trend, and what does that really mean, anyway?
Here is my theory: People have been generally desensitized by vast over-stimulation and over-accessibility to media within the past 25 years, cultivating a ‘screenterpersonal’ mentality for entertainment and social interaction, which by definition lacks the essence of what makes live entertainment so powerful: the benefits and effects of compounding positive energy from a group of people in direct physical proximity to one another. Because people are constantly riddled with stimulus from every direction, and spend most of their time in front of a screen of some sort (computer, phone, ipad, television, etc), it naturally takes more and more direct engagement to create the kind of emotional reaction and brand identity producers strive for in an audience experience at a live event.
If your event is lacking any of The Big Six, it is going to be extra difficult to break that wall and create an impactful overall experience for your audience, as every aspect of your event should move you towards that goal. You want the presentation of your entertainment to break people out of that ‘screenterpersonal’ mentality, and move them to realize they are watching a real human show, not filtered through a screen, and that their energy and overall experience is allowed to match that of the performers right there in front of them. Remember, our goal is to entertain – but to do that you need to develop and maintain your audience’s focus, and draw them into the presentation of your entertainment!
The benefit of having a good emcee comes into play in a HUGE way here. Out of all the players in a show, the emcee has the unique ability to CONSISTENTLY and DIRECTLY engage an audience. There are multiple ways an emcee can achieve this, and chances are they will employ multiple methods of crowd interaction throughout an event – calling out individual audience members, telling rapid fire jokes, initiating a call and response, running an interactive contest, etc, etc…regardless of their method, you will know your host is effective by the consistency of the crowd’s response to them throughout the show – the environment they create, and the energy they give out directly correlates to the crowd’s reaction and attitude throughout the event. This literally applies to EVERY LIVE SHOW you will ever see, and any style of emcee that takes the stage, ever.
The idea of ‘breaking the wall’ and engaging the crowd applies to individual performers in their own way as well. Your energy should be palpable, and your eyes should be expressive, no matter what the subject or context of your act is (see The Big Six…Consistency Is Key: Overall Quality Of Performances for more on a performer’s energy on stage). All of these elements contribute to the goal of drawing your audience into your entertainment, and out of their daily grind. And this, my friends, is what makes a show an ‘experience.’
Looking to the future, I think we will see an inevitable rise of audience-centric entertainment and activities finding their way into the burlesque and variety show structure. It is already common to see some sort of interactive activity or contest at many shows (for instance, The Siren Show hosts a short, audience whipping segment in every show...mainly because we did it once, and people loved it so much we adopted it into our regular format), which is a trend I think will only rise in popularity as producers pay closer attention to the audiences reaction as they shop these activities in their events.
The base moral of this story is as follows: The number one way for an entertainer to gain and maintain an audience’s attention is to acknowledge them. After all, without an audience, there couldn’t be a show! This is the first post of many on this particular topic, I expect, and as I said above, the theory applies to the overall show, each performer’s act on stage, and the host’s responsibilities throughout the event.
The most powerful thing we have at our disposal as human beings is ENERGY. As entertainers, it is even more pertinent to our success that we remain conscious of that to LEARN HOW TO USE IT.