Speak Easy Pt. 6 - The Open Mic!

     Open mic venues can be very exciting to attend, and even more exciting when you are slated to perform. There are many different places where open mics are held, and as with the online shows, it's always best to do your research to find out exactly what type of event you will be attending. Each show has a different following and will draw certain types of performers and audiences. Venues range from family-friendly to adults-only themes, with everything in between. Many shows are for general audiences before a certain time, with no restrictions afterwards. If you have never attended an open mic before, it's best to go and watch the show, to find out if you would like to participate. You can always bring a poem or two with you even if you didn't sign up on the list, just in case you are invited to share something with the audience, which often happens in smaller venues.

     When going to perform at an open mic, find out what time the list is posted, so you can be sure to sign up early. The number of spots on the list can vary from 10 to 30, and many times those numbers can change at the discretion of the hosts. Performances may include music, rap, dance, and comedy, as well as poetry, and performers may be called onstage in the order that they sign up on the list, or randomly...so be ready! Please be aware that occasionally at some of the more popular venues, performers who are signed up may not be called on, either because the list was cut off after a certain number, or in some instances, performers who are unknown are "bumped" from the list in favor of others who are known to the hosts. Sometimes what is advertised as an "open mic" is actually closed prior to the start of the show.  It's an unfair reality in the poetry community, but it happens. If you ever encounter this, you can choose to sign up again if it's at a venue where you really would like to perform, or to choose another venue altogether.

      Please observe and respect all restrictions of the house, such as time limits and content. To allow everyone on the list the opportunity to perform, most venues limit performers to 3 - 5 minutes unless they are a featured guest. If anyone exceeds their time limit, it can be very embarrassing! Hosts will always announce the rules of the venue when the show starts. If you have a piece that is longer that you want to present, be sure to cut it to fit the time frame. There can be some very embarrassing consequences for performers who exceed their time limits!  If the host specifically states that only family friendly material is allowed, please take it seriously. Some venues post their restrictions, such as: No profanity, no explicit material, no depictions of violence. Again, observe their rules, because it's their show.

     During the show, the host will usually perform some of his or her own material to set the tone for the evening, but feel free to share whatever you do best. Performers are called onstage individually or at larger venues in "sets" of three at a time, to move the show along quickly. In this case, you must be ready to go up right after the preceding performer. Sometimes the host will use the term "on deck", which is a stage cue to let you know that it's getting close to your time to go up. As soon as the person ahead of you leaves the stage, go up right away. Never leave an empty stage, because it slows down the pace of the show and causes the audience to lose interest in the performers. It's extremely difficult to regain the interest of a lost audience, and you want their full attention!

     When you reach the stage, you can adjust the mic to suit your needs, or someone will assist you. Take a few seconds to center yourself. Relax...breathe...and share your piece. People want to hear what you have to say, so don't give them an excuse not to listen to you by saying any of the following:
  • I'm nervous...(most people are)
  • I wasn't expecting to perform...(then why go onstage?)
  • Bear with me...(why should they?)
     Unless you are a great cold-reader, you should always practice your piece at home before reading it in public. It's great to have your poetry memorized, but if there is the slightest chance of you going blank onstage, there is nothing wrong with having your book, paper, or phone with you. Yes...some poets read from their phones. If you do read your piece, make sure to connect with your audience by making eye contact with them from time to time. Don't get locked in to your paper. When you really know your material, it won't be hard to do. Stay focused on the message you want to convey, so you won't get distracted by things that go on in the audience such as people talking, moving around and ambient or background noises. If you make a mistake, keep going! Don't stop, or apologize in the middle of your piece for any reason. Remember that other than yourself, no one knows what you have written. Make sure that you really believe in your work, and command the attention of the audience. It's your message that you're  choosing to share with the world, and someone needs to hear it, so pay attention to all of the dynamics of what you have written. Reach your audience with all of the emotion that you have put into your piece so that they can feel it also, because one of the quickest ways to lose the attention of an audience is to read a poem like you are reading the newspaper. A great Christian spoken word artist, Janett...icz says it best: "Don't be the poet that people leave to go to the bathroom on".

     These are a few pointers to help you get started in poetry and spoken word. If you really want to grow in the art of poetry and spoken word presentation, it takes practice, patience, and time...just like any other genre of performance. It's impossible to put everything in just a few paragraphs of a blog. Start where you are, and keep going. Watch videos of other artists, go to workshops, and do everything that you can to become the best that you can be!

    Enjoy this dynamic presentation by Janett...icz:

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