Performing Advice: Don’t Care About the Audience

Bored Audience - What To Do
If you want to be a public speaker but are terrified of crowds, Narcolepsy support groups make for terrific, non-threatening audiences.

Note: me writing this post is going to seem like I’ve had a bloody awful weekend of gigs, but I haven’t. They’ve all been rather lovely, but, then again, that’s exactly what I WOULD type if I was lying to you, so I’m stymied with whatever option I go with.

No, despite this weekend’s gigs being wonderful, lovely and all kinds of awesome, I constantly think about how I change whenever this isn’t the case – about how the mere suggestion of an unhappy spectator can send me into a downward spiral of self-hatred.

I’ve talked about bad gigs before, and I’m more than happy to do so as long as I have them. In a world where you can’t please all of the people all of the time, I can’t expect to be a constant joy bringer and godlike worker of wonders.

And I’m not.

No, this is about how to cope when things don’t go your way. It’s not just for performers – it’s for anyone that has to create anything and send it out into the world for other people to cast their eyes, ears or other body part upon.


Despite what people will have you believe, there IS such a thing as a bad audience.

There are audiences that, even when you do everything perfectly, will still hate you.

Maybe that’s a bit strong, so let’s make it kinder.

There are audiences that, even when you do everything perfectly, will not want to have your children.

You can’t help but take this personally. You shouldn’t though, because you did everything perfectly. They may not have loved it but surely that’s not your fault? You did what you could, and they didn’t love you.

That’s OK.

I think the ultimate goal (and one I have yet to master) is to be able to walk off a stage where you did everything perfectly but the audience didn’t react, with a big smile on your face, happy in doing a good nights work!

It’s irresponsible to hitch your happiness or level of self-confidence to anything that is not TOTALLY within your control so, as a performer, you have to learn how to be indifferent to your audience.

Does that mean ignoring them? No, of course not.

If you pick up some signals from the crowd that you need to do something to give yourself a fighting chance, then do it. Pick up the pace if the show needs more energy or slow it down if you feel they’re not keeping up.

Indifference is not the same as ignorance. I’ve Googled it.

Do everything within your control to TRY and give them a great time, but don’t attach your level of self-worth to their reaction.

If they love you, great!

If they don’t, great!

Performing anything for an audience, whether it’s a magic trick or a well-rehearsed sales pitch is like dropping pennies into a muddy pool, trying to land it on a specific spot – you may get lucky, you may not.

That’s what it comes down to – luck.

Of course, you can’t blame an audience for ALL of your failures – that’s just lazy. You should always do your research, practice, rehearsal and give it your absolute best – you know, the things you CAN control.

Once you’ve done those, NOW you drop the coin. What happens next is in the lap of the Gods.

Tie your confidence to your efforts, rather than your results.

If you’ve done all that you can, you’ve done all that you can. Good job!