I mentioned last week that we saw Rufus Wainwright on Thursday night. Julianna Raye was the opening performer, singing a bossa nova-inspired set from her new CD.
Singers often talk between songs, telling stories about their inspiration, or just entertaining the crowd. Sometimes a singer seems to talk more to cover up an awkward silence than to enhance the show.
There were a few of these moments during Julanna Raye's performance, one of which stood out because, from a public speaking perspective, it was something that I advise against doing.
She pointed out to the audience how she had just discovered that the bottom of her new dress fit neatly inside the tops of her over-the-knee boots, repeatedly getting caught there.
My first thought: "Always check your outfit before you go onstage."
My second thought: "Don't tell the audience when there's something wrong. They generally don't know. Now you've given them something to look for and focus on."
Considering that Julianna stood in one place throughout her set, it was unlikely that anyone would have noticed the dress falling into the boots.
Some speakers and performers have a tendency to give too much information; I recognize this because I'm one of them.
We do it because we want to endear ourselves to the audience and bond with them. We want them to understand that we're not perfect, we're human, and we don't want their expectations to be too high in case we can't meet them.
The problem with this is that we are distracting the audience from our message. We're asking them to focus on something completely irrelevant to our purpose. We've just guaranteed that they will pay less attention to our words and more attention to our flaws.
As I've said before, every speaker has her or his little quirks. This is one I'm happy to say I've worked on. I hardly ever spill the beans any more. It takes a conscious effort, just like everything about public speaking.
I hope Julianna Raye wears a different dress next time, so neither she nor the audience is distracted.