Speakers can learn valuable lessons from professional entertainers. I recently saw Jeff Tracta headline at the Palms in Las Vegas. Fabulous, fresh and funny. Here are some performance tips from his show:
You pay your dues. There is no shortcut to excellence. After performing in stage productions, TV (The Bold and the Beautiful), internationally, and in Las Vegas for many years (he’s in his early 50s), Jeff has become a super-star entertainer. Likewise, your success will also result from decades of hard work. Overnight success usually happens after ten to twenty years of preparation.
Learn the techniques of the pros. Jeff Tracta can perform night after night for 90 minutes and still have a strong voice for the next show. He projects differently than the average person who would lose their voice performing on stage for over an hour. To be a pro, we need to study and use the techniques of a professional.
Be original. As an impressionist, Jeff is challenged to do impressions beyond the stock collection of the usual characters we normally see performed by impressionists. Jeff didn’t perform many of the celebrities I was expecting. And he performed many current stars I was not expecting. From his opening with Archie and Edith Bunker to his closing with closing with Andrea Bocelli and Sara Brighton, his program was rich with characters appealing to the older crowd, middle-age audience members, and younger fans: George Burns, Lady Gaga, Eminem, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Boy George, Elton John, numerous cartoon characters, many current stand-up comics, and a hundred more celebrities enriched his program. Speakers need to exceed the expectations of the audience. Jeff did.
Be well prepared. One unique aspect of Jeff Tracta’s show was his use of Audio and Visual techniques to add a new dimension to his performance. He used photos and videos of celebrities to enhance his impressions and sing duets. He used multi sound tracks to enable him to sing and perform all the supporting instruments in a song. Coordinating speaking and singing with a supporting A/V script takes a lot of rehearsal. Jeff’s timing was perfect. Very impressive. Likewise, as speakers, preparation is what makes your performance look professional.
Laughter is contagious. The Pearl showroom holds about 2000 people. The full house helped make the show great. Jeff connected with the audience and they kept the laughter rolling. As speakers, we need to ensure we have optimum performing conditions; Lighting, sound, arrangement of the seats, temperature. Success is in the details. Make the experience perfect for the audience and they will support you.
Be timely. Jeff Tracta’s program included fresh references to current events. I heard references to things which had happened in the past two weeks. Just as part of the popularity of late-night talk-show hosts results from the fresh monologues which they present at the opening of their shows, it also is important for you to ensure your tried-and-tested material is fresh by sprinkling current material throughout your program.
Warm up the audience. There are many ways to do this. A headliner will often have an opening act. Jeff’s show opened with comedian Bruce Fine who did a terrific job of warming up the audience. You may not have an opening act for your speech, but there are other choices. You could use music before you are introduced. Make sure you have someone who will give you a proper introduction. I use comedy magic as an opener for my programs. Make sure you don’t start your program with a sleeping audience. You don’t want to go on cold.
Be a student. The next time you go to a performance like Jeff Tracta’s, go to school by asking yourself, “How does this performance apply to me as a speaker. What can I do the next time I speak that I learned from this professional performance?”
When you hear that Jeff Tracta is performing near you, don’t miss him. Highly recommended. You won’t be disappointed.