When you lead a choir rehearsal, you are asking for the attention of a group of people so that you can impart information. Maybe you’re lucky enough to be a natural born public speaker and you like nothing better than standing up in front of people and being the centre of attention, but most of us aren’t like that. Even if you’re confident of your musical skills, it can be hugely daunting to get up and speak with confidence and authority. So how do you take command of a room? Here are some helpful suggestions.
Preparation gives you confidence
You will feel better about engaging with a group and guiding a rehearsal (workshop, class, whatever) if you know your stuff. That takes preparation. If you haven’t prepared, you’re likely to feel less authoritative and more nervous. Those who know me well would probably scoff at my suggesting to anyone that they do their homework – I am one of the world’s leading procrastinators. I have always prepared for things at the last minute, and I imagine I always will. However, when I prepare thoroughly for rehearsals and workshops, albeit just in time, I enjoy them more and feel more in control. My time management is also tons better when I’m prepared.
Use your physical presence
You can get people’s attention by waving your arms and making a loud noise, but you can’t keep it that way. It might seem counter-intuitive, but stillness and composure are attractive because they project confidence and self-possession.
When you stand up in front of a group, whether it’s your regular choir or people you’ve never met before, take a moment to let the audience come to you. Yes, it’s scary, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a much more powerful way of getting and keeping attention, and it’s much less exhausting for you. You’ll also, crucially, avoid damaging your voice by raising it to talk over other people.
Oh, and don’t forget to smile. You’re happy to be there, right?
Accept that you’re going to make mistakes
Perfectionism and a terror of making mistakes are bound up with the need for approval. Often, we want to “get it right” because we want people to like what we do and, ultimately, to like us. When people fear public speaking or performing often the core fear is of being judged, condemned or mocked by the audience.
If you can get comfortable with the idea of making mistakes, shrugging them off and carrying on, you can become a much more confident and authoritative leader. And if you can separate your audience’s opinion of you with your own idea of your worth, you’re probably well on the way to being a content and happy person (definitely a work in progress for me!).
Remember that it’s not “us and them”
Unless you are a stand-up comedian facing a drunk and hostile crowd, it’s likely that whatever audience you’re addressing wants to like you and what you say. You don’t need to win them over, you just need to avoid losing them. Isn’t that a reassuring thought? If you have something of value to give to an audience that you respect, you’ll be just fine.