Do you sometimes feel your performances are a bit flat or missing something? Having good stage presence will help you make the best impression as a performer and help you hold your audience’s attention.
Learn how to have a good stage presence as a singer, so you create a buzz around your live gigs. Even if you have catchy original tunes, a striking image and high-quality backing, you’ll need that x-factor, to engage your audience and project your charisma.
Read on to find out how you can command the space in which you’re performing and keep those watching electrified.
How to have a good stage presence as a singer
You may or may not have a natural charisma or magnetic personality. But everyone can use tried and tested techniques to get stage presence. This will help you to tell the story of your song to your audience and to ensure all eyes are on you, and not phones, the ceiling or towards the bar. In a competition, it means you’ll have a much better chance of standing out.
What does it mean to have good stage presence?
It’s hard to define but is best described in words as a sense of command over the space. Confidence in yourself, and perhaps more importantly, in your ability to hold the audience’s attention. It shows through body language, eye contact and movement (including the pace of your movement). And it helps if you don’t look nervous. How you’re feeling may be another issue altogether, but if you can overcome it to a level that it’s unseen, all the better.
In this digital age and with more and more gigs going online, stage presence can get lost. Performing in front of a screen is a completely different discipline, with much less movement, and more subtlety required. As such, there’s been an increase in singers who appear bored, listless, or lacking dynamism when on stage.
Why is stage presence important for singers?
Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, even more so with so much short-form digital input. So singers have to work harder to keep an audience engaged and entertained. A lack of stage presence will cause them to metaphorically fade into the background. The performance is likely to become boring, or the audience may worry that you’ve not got the nerve for it. Subconsciously this will make them feel uncomfortable. For those watching and listening to relax and enjoy the event, they must feel like you the performer, are in full control of everything that’s occurring.
How is stage presence achieved?
Firstly, you need to establish your image and vibe, as a singer. Stage presence can equate to a powerful stillness, an ebullience, a brooding moodiness, or wild energy. But it’s not a case of one size fits all. Before you identify the ways to achieve your particular brand of stage presence, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions:
- What is my musical genre?
- Within my genre, what kind of a song am I singing? (ie. Happy, sad, nonchalant or angry)
- What will I be wearing? (This will affect movement options)
- Where am I performing – what size and shape is the venue?
- Who else will I be interacting with? (ie. Bandmates, backing musicians and backup dancers)
Your answers to these will dictate the details of your presence, and how it’s established. But there are a few factors that are necessary for all performers to command the space:
- Confidence. You must believe in yourself.
- Eye contact and gaze.
How can you improve your stage presence?
#1 Be the unique you
As we’ve said, stage presence can look different, from one performer to the next. Ask your initial questions, take a look at your image and identify how it makes you different. Then really lean into it. Exaggerating on stage, particularly in a bigger venue, can create a character. Remember, you’re not just making music, but putting on a show for your audience too.
#2 Discover your strengths
As with your USP (unique selling point), you should lean into your particular strengths also. Not sure what these are? Ask! They may be unrelated to your songs. It might be you have a killer smile, some great dance moves, a cheeky personality, a strong and tough persona, witty banter, or an elegant walk. Anything that appeals to normal life, will make you even more likeable on stage too.
#3 Get a mantra
It’s all very well saying ‘be confident’, but how do you do it?
A certain amount of confidence comes with time and experience. But you can hasten that process by building a belief in yourself. Google some popular mantras, or create some positive affirmations yourself, and say them out loud several times a day. After a while, you will start to believe them – even if you don’t at first.
#4 Stand tall
Unless you’re rocking a specific image that requires a particular posture (and be careful with that, as it can have detrimental effects on your bio-mechanics), you should stand and walk tall. That is, with your shoulders back, head up, knees straight, but not locked and your spine in alignment. Stride on stage at the start of your gig and you’ll immediately project a sense of command and confidence.
Stage presence 101
#5 Start right
Let’s expand that topic of starting. Your audience will make up their mind about you in the first few seconds of seeing and hearing what you have to offer. So hone your beginning. Be sure that your USP, confidence and posture are all in there from the very top.
#6 Allow silence and stillness
A common mistake that newbie performers make, is to feel the need to always be moving or singing. Several moments of complete stillness and/or silence, contrasting sound and action, is one of the most effective tactics you can employ to hold your audience’s attention. It takes guts and confidence to do nothing. Which is why it shows you to be a total pro. The caveat here is that you should do it with intent. Don’t stand listlessly looking blank. Punctuate it with an emotive stare, strong pose or by throwing your head back for a few seconds. Big ballad chanteuses like Adele, Beyonce and Lana Del Ray have this nailed.
#7 Consider your ‘costume’
If you need to gain an understanding of how to use dress to create presence, look to artists such as Paloma Faith, David Bowie and Selena Gomez for a masterclass in how it’s done. A flamboyant costume can shortcut you to stage presence, although this won’t suit every genre of music (a folk singer would look a little out of place wearing a Gaga style slab of meat, for example)
You must create a connection with your audience. While your music will do much of the talking, you can help convey its story and your own personality with your eyes. And it’s as simple as looking at the people in the audience! Yet so many performers forget or neglect to do this. It’s the reason why it’s not a good idea to keep your eyes closed for too long on stage.
Stage presence techniques
#9 Practice, practice, practice
Always one of our top tips: practice makes perfect. The more you know what you’re doing, the more confident, engaging, expressive and self-assured you’ll be. And the fewer mistakes you’ll make.
#10 Define your movements
As you should be bold in your persona on stage, so too should you be with your movements. No wet fish hands or sloppy dance moves! You can be floaty and elegant of course, but be sure that every move you make is purposeful and defined.
#11 Have facial expression
Blank faces are boring. Harness the emotion of the song and show it on your face.
#12 Be at one with your tech
The same rule applies here as with practice. If you’re unfamiliar with your kit – a monitor, mic or stand, you’ll loose confidence or seem inexperienced – which is the antithesis of stage presence.
Prepare your words carefully. Or become adept at off the cuff public speaking. What you say can be a real giveaway when it comes to nerves.
Stage presence examples
Some rules are made to be broken, Which again brings us down to your individuality and vibe as a musician. Let’s take a look at some famous singers with a fantastic stage presence.
Her grounding on the larger than life Disney channel set Christina up for a career touring some of the biggest stadia on the planet. With bags of energy, she moves around the whole stage, varying her dance moves and using every single part of her body. As soon as she appears, she lets her audience know that she’s got this and that we’re in for a good time.
One who consistently receives criticism for a lack of presence is Dua Lipa. But it hasn’t stopped the YouTube discovered singer’s success. Have a watch of this video and see if you can identify what she’s doing wrong.
This type of stage presence is common among indie musicians but quite tricky to nail. Liam has a ‘couldn’t care less’ and often quite a negative attitude. He uses tactics that would seem alienating, like wearing sunglasses and being downright offensive at times. But he proves that it’s not actually about appearing keen. The caveat to this is that it must be lathered in confidence – cockiness even and it must be bold. Think of pantos or movies. It’s often the antagonist or ‘bad guy and girl’ who is the most engaging (even if you don’t like them). Liam effectively plays a character, both on stage and off. We’ll never know how close it is to his ‘real’ personality. But this self-assuredness combined with mega hits has long attracted adoring fans.
His presence is perhaps more famous than his music. The Pulp frontman combined a retro wardrobe, with his eccentric persona to great. He may not be the best singer we’ve ever heard and spent a limited time with hits in the charts. But as a performer and all-round character, he won’t be forgotten. He plays on his height, emphasising it with a lanky posture. This won’t work for most types of singers when standing tall is much more effective. But by taking his USP and crafting an exaggerated apparent nonchalance, he has us gripped.
How to be a good performer on stage
Think of a moth to a flame. You want to draw those watching you, into your magnetic radiance. Becoming more vocally dynamic, while not a direct factor in stage presence, will create the overall effect of a more interesting set. And if you’ve got the crowd fully engaged – with your vocals and visuals, you’ll have won them over – even if they don’t love your musical style.
A good way to check out your stage presence is to record yourself performing, in as big a space as possible, from a distance. See what the audience sees and identify where you can improve. And always record your live gigs, as this will reveal much about the quality of your audience interaction.
- How can I be a good performer on stage?
Practice beforehand and know what you’re doing inside out. Soundcheck and rehearse (if possible) in the space before the live gig. Be a mutually supportive musician – lookout for your bandmates and communicate with your sound team.
- Where do you look when singing on stage?
Mostly, at the audience. But if you’re part of a group or band, you should make eye contact with them too from time to time. This gives the impression that you have a rapport (whether it’s the case or not!). You can also look down from time to time, or at your instrument if you’re self accompanying.
- What should you not do on stage?
Don’t fiddle, chew gum, chat (unless it’s with the audience), look bored, apologise if you make a mistake, or walk off partway through. Turning your back is fine for s short time, but always be aware of what your audience is seeing, and don’t alienate yourself from them for too long.
How have you developed your stage presence as a performer? Or is it something you still struggle with? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.