Joanne and I visited an artists’ conference recently. The room was filled with well-known and talented musicians and for the concluding evening session, a variety of those were invited up to play or sing. However, the talent was somewhat obscured as each artist, without exception, apologized in advance for what they were about to offer. These are actual quotations I heard in the course of this one short program:
- “I haven’t played the piano for several years now.”
- “I’ve been struggling with my voice not being strong.”
- “I wrote this song but a better songwriter could probably do something more.”
- “We’re having trouble getting the microphones set up for both our voices.”
- “I didn’t really have time to practice for this.”
- “I’m sorry, I sing mostly for kids.”
I fully expected the next person to apologize for the “C” she got in high school history and for not plucking her eyebrows that morning. It seemed the real performance was to see who could outdo the previous presenter in apologies.
Why do we start any personal presentation with an apology for what we are going to deliver? I know it seems like humility but it serves no one. If you really don’t believe your presentation is worth hearing then please just ask to not perform. And false humility is a dangerous practice in which the person degrades himself in the hope that others will compliment and build him up. There is little to be gained by apologizing and it instantly damages your credibility with the audience. If you apologize for not being an expert, for example, your audience will question why they are listening to you. If you apologize for not being prepared or not being your best physically, those listening have been alerted they will not be getting your best.
Here are 10 tips from Toastmasters International that can be applied to singing, speaking, showing your art, or teaching a Sunday School class:
- Know your material.
- Practice. Practice. Practice!
- Know the audience.
- Know the room.
- Visualize yourself giving your speech.
- Realize that people want you to succeed.
- Don’t apologize for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.
- Concentrate on the message – not the medium.
- Gain experience.
I apologize for not having 11 tips – I’m not sure 10 is (or should that be are?) adequate. If I could only learn to be more like Jesus I would have had 12. I was going to come up with at least one more but I didn’t sleep well last night, we just got back from a trip late last night, this is allergy season, the squirrels disturbed my thinking on my walk to my office, a black cat walked across my path on the way over here, plus I was never good at math. I really am sorry – please forgive me.
How are you apologizing for your “art”?