You can’t always control what happens. But you can choose how to react to what happens. When Mariah Carey ran into a technical glitch on live TV in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, she chose to storm off the stage. When Monalisa Arias was faced with multiple technical gaps on the stage in the jungle in Panama last week, she not only completed her performance, but also used what happened to build an even stronger connection with her audience. The lesson is about preparation, confidence and agility.
CNN’s Mel Robbins suggests people in Mariah Carey’s situation should take a breath to survey the extent of the damage, tell the audience there’s a problem, keep going as best you can and abandon plan A and assume control by winging it if you can’t keep going.
Monalisa Arias did parts of this and then went beyond. She did three things:
1. Recognize and acknowledge the problem.
2. Bring the audience in to be part of the solution.
3. Adjust plans as required to deliver a superior result.
It’s a model any performer or public speaker can use with almost any audience.
Recognize and acknowledge the problem.
Monalisa’s problem was that no one could hear her sing. The stage was set up for speakers with hand-held microphones. But Monalisa’s hands were otherwise occupied with her guitar and there were no microphone stands.
She called out the problem. Which did exactly what Robbins suggests it would: humanized her and put the audience on her side, calmed her mind to talk about it, rather than simply think about it, alerted others to the issue.
Bring the audience in to be part of the solution.
Instantly Tim West jumped out of the audience, picked up one microphone in each hand and held them to capture Monalisa’s voice and guitar. Monalisa took his elbow and put it on her leg saying “You’re going to need support for that arm.” Then she turned to the audience and complimented Tim’s act. She, Tim and the audience were one, and together ready to co-create an experience.
Adjust plans as required to deliver a superior result.
It didn’t end there. Another audience member wanted to play along with Monalisa. Nothing inherently wrong with that. Might have worked better if he had ever played her song before or had a microphone. None of that rattled Monalisa. She welcomed him in, riffed with the audience while he was getting set, adjusted to his improvisations and made a lot of people very happy.
Preparation, confidence and agility.
I asked Monalisa why she thought she was able to make that work so well. She told me she’d played her original song, Fireflies, a thousand times before. So, even though she wasn’t perfectly prepared for the stage she was on, she had enough confidence in her mastery of the song to adjust to whatever happened with great agility.
That combination changed what she was doing from a performance to a shared experience. The audience moved past judging, past rooting her on, to being part of what she did.
The lessons are applicable to most public or important performances or presentations. Invest the time to be comfortable with your material under any circumstances. Ideally, get familiar with the specific venue so you know you can hear yourself (unlike Mariah Carey in Times Square) and have all the equipment you need (unlike Monalisa Arias in Panama). Preparation breeds confidence.
Then, leverage that confidence to adjust as required.
Things go wrong. If you’ve prepared well enough in advance to be deservedly confident, when something does go wrong, you can recognize and acknowledge the problem, bring the audience in to be part of the solution, and adjust in partnership with the audience to deliver a superior experience for all.