According to the Free Dictionary, an entertainer is one “to hold the attention of with something amusing or diverting.” Yes, that definition explains why Kim Kardashian, Nadya Suleman and just about any so-called reality star or tabloid tease may be considered an entertainer!
Questionable talent and dubious pop culture judgment aside, the definition of an entertainer offers an opportunity to more critically assess who you are in the entertainment spectrum: Do you powerfully hold the attention of an audience? Or do you simply divert them from their other concerns?
IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND…
While neither definition presents a platinum standard for entertainers, the former suggests a more positive goal for an entertainer than the latter. “To hold the attention of” infers a rapt audience, one that is engaged, affirming, and absorbed. Perhaps, even captivated: “To attract and hold by charm, beauty, or excellence.”
According to Canadian pianist, producer, arranger, composer, and director Paul Tobey’s experiences, “It’s not an accident that some entertainers stand out from the crowd. It’s based on a carefully laid out plan that includes stage presence, humility, confidence, mental preparation, natural talent, experience and one secret ingredient.”
…OR SLEIGHT OF HAND?
To “divert them from something else” implies more of a distraction than a captivation. People such as the Kardashians may be dumped unceremoniously into this category. In general, this definition applies to people who are devoid of talent in traditional forms of entertainment, such as singing, acting, dance, or comedy. The primary focus of the distraction definition is embarrassment or, unfortunately, humiliation (shows like Ridiculousness and The Bachelorette are prime examples). We previously laughed with you; now, sadly, we laugh at you.
Diversion also infers that the “entertainment” at hand is precluding the audience member from focusing on more important tasks or issues. Alarmingly, this concept seems more and more prevalent in the way political campaigns attempt to divert public attention from important issues to “sideshow” attractions. “Infotainment,” indeed.
So, Mr. or Ms. Entertainer—what are you: diversion or captivation?
A SUM OF THE PARTS, RATHER THAN JUST SOME PARTS
Are you a polished MC? A dynamic, attentive music programmer? Are you an adept dancer? A mesmerizing, informative dance instructor? An energetic and friendly game host? Are your comedic turns sharp, timely, appropriate for your audience and consistent with what is happening at your event? What skills do you have that are truly captivating?
For Tobey, a critical missing element in many entertainer’s repertoire is rapport. In an article entitled “What Makes a Great Entertainer?” he writes, “It always amazes me how few people know how to interact with an audience. It’s not just about being confident. It’s about where to stand, how to stand, when to speak, how to speak, body language, how to move and how to address the audience. This type of information starts with a template. There actually is a template for giving any type of presentation. Most great entertainers know this. They do not wing it.
“For example, there is a template just for an introduction that includes things like: how to take the stage; what to say first; asking enrolling questions (e.g. “How many of you…?”); earning the right to be heard; and strategically letting the audience know what the presentation is all about and what’s in store for them. While this may seem like a simple thing, it’s not. An entertainer needs to know exactly how to perform each one of these steps. It’s not enough just to know the steps, you need to know how to deliver them.”
Do you know the steps? How to deliver? Are you willing to invest time, practice, learn the ropes, practice, accept constructive criticism and…practice? You are worth the effort, and, more critically, your audiences deserve it.
And what is that “secret ingredient,” according to Tobey? “The audience is the star! That’s the secret ingredient. Without it, you can never hope to be a great entertainer. And, that’s the biggest thing that most up-and-coming performers do not understand. It’s all about the audience. In fact, the more you make it about the audience the more success as a great entertainer you’ll have.” So, to be a true entertainer, first you need to understand that you’re there to help audience play their starring role. Then you need to devise, rehearse and excute a plan designed to engage the audience at hand. Only with the proper motivation and preparation will you achieve the captivating glow that keeps the audience from looking away, rather than just fill the room with the glare of distraction.
Filed Under: Issue #142, Issues from 2012
Leave a comment