More help for stand up comedy at open mic nights

Public speaking tips tick

Ok, so I went along to my first open mic night on Monday and after ten pretty reasonable musical acts (and a questionable 70 year old man rapping), there was one comedy act.

Unfortunately, the audience felt that the ‘comedy’ area of the act was somewhat lacking. I’m not so sure it wasn’t just a lack of stage presence and impact (which could be easily solved) but hey, at the end of the day, your audience are the group you have to please!

So what other tips for stand up comedy tip I pick up from attending this open mic and witnessing an unfortunate stand-up ‘bomb’?

1. At an open mic night you often won’t be the centre of many people’s attention. There will be a lot of background noise which is easily overcome if you are a musician, but not if you are relying on your voice alone. My advice would be to get on stage early before this background noise gets louder (generally due to alcohol!).

If you do have to go on with a lot of background noise present, open with impact (a great joke or some real vocal variety and presence) to get everyone’s attention.

2. My second piece of advice would focus on keeping your audience attention. With the background noise and various other distractions, you need to keep your audience engaged (as with any public speaking). Do this by interacting with the crowd and asking questions of them – perhaps get them involved in your best gag or catchphrase.

3. My final tip would be about getting your audience onside – something all comedians aspire to. For an open mic night, I’ve found that the only thing that you and your audience likely have in common is your shared experience of the previous acts (good and bad). Why not make reference to a shared observation or piece of humour from a a previous act to quickly get your audience on side?

Has this experience of an open mic night put me off getting up there myself? Nope, it’s terrified me, seeing someone bomb, but if anything it has made me more motivated to get up there and do it myself!

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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