I have recently been sent an email from a musician wanting my thoughts on audience persuasion skills for performers.
Musicians using NLP Techniques with an Audience
I thought it would be a good idea to post my reply publicly.
Persuasion Skills in a Performance Arena
Any artistic endeavour is about communication and generally an artist is communicating an idea, concept or more often an emotion from themselves to their audience. As such NLP Training generally and persuasion skills specifically can be a great help. Here are a few thoughts.
Communication or Technical Ability
How is it that some musicians seem to move audiences with emotions and others with a great technical mastery of their instruments sound boring and tedious? I would argue that the key issue is how they communicate with the audience. Before we move on I should point out that I believe in having mastery of your instrument, just not to the exclusion of communicating with your audience.
As an analogy imagine the difference between a popular author and a high brow academic English lecturer. The first may not have the technical ability but would certainly know how to connect with their readers. The second may have the technical ability to construct brilliant works but without some emotional connection with their readership there may not be anything worth reading. Let me again reiterate the fact that neither position excludes the other and the ideal situation would be a person who has a great technical ability and also a great connection with their audience.
NLP Training and Musical Performance
The number of performers I have seen that don’t manage to even look at their audience is amazing. Would you want to talk to someone that refuses to even acknowledge your presence in the room let alone talk to you directly?
When dealing with presentation and training skills we spend a lot of energy acknowledging the audience. I see no difference with a musical performance. The best gigs I have been to have been those where the performers seem to be playing for me and communicating with me directly.
As a musician this is an easy skill to learn. On good NLP Practitioner Training Courses you will learn how your body language dictates your communication; you will learn how to develop both verbal and non-verbal charisma patterns. All of this can be used both during and between numbers to build rapport with your audience.
Eliciting Emotional States in the Audience
In my gigging days I used to spend a lot of time with the band developing set lists, talking our front man through sequences of anticipation loops and internal representations. Think about the best performances you have been to. I will guarantee that it was not just about individual numbers that were played. It will have been about the order and position of those numbers throughout the whole set.
When I work with musicians on this level I am always asking them to do a perceptual positions exercise and go through the set as a member of the audience asking these sorts of questions:
- What do I want the audience to feel in this song?
- How does this relate to the song before and the song after…as well as in the context of the overall set?
One of the switches in perception that I do with musicians is to get them to plot the emotional journey of the audience as the route to deciding the sequence of songs. If you have a front man that has been on NLP Training Courses they will be able to gauge audience reactions and make decisions on the order of songs in the moment to move them in the direction that creates the best effect.
NLP Anchoring and Throwing Guitar Shapes
One specific technique I learned from watching some of my favourite guitarists and later modelled in to NLP terms was anchoring your audience.
Very early on in a set I would ensure that there was a song that built to a blisteringly good guitar solo. The sort of song I was looking for would feature me, have a slow start (for those in the know this is the start of a charisma pattern) and build to a very emotional powerful guitar solo that I could play easily.
I would then pour my heart and soul into this one performance whilst standing in a particular location on the stage, I would make it look very difficult and that I was putting everything I had into it. At the end of the solo, but before the end of the song I would bow to the audience and take the applause.
From this point I have the audience anchored. From this point if I want the audience to really notice my solo and react to it I would have a place and some actions I would go through to elicit the response.
It Takes Two to Make Music
The last thing I would add about art generally and music specifically is that it takes at least two people to create art. Music is a form of communication; it needs someone to send and someone to receive the message. Without the audience there is no one to communicate with. Therefore I have no respect for those “artistes” that think it is all about them.
Without any focus on your audience and what they might be getting from your performance you are only playing to your own ego. NLP Training will give you a lot of skills that allow you to put the focus on your audience and then move them emotionally.