While this should be true of any singer singing any style of music, Gospel/Christian singers really should be striving to connect with their audience on a much deeper, more personal level. I wrote an article a while back about the word “perform” and how it’s often seen as a bad word in Gospel music. A big part of that has to do with the audience’s perceived lack of any real feeling or true ministry taking place when the singer is going forth. As I’ve touched on before, there are some very common things many singers do that causes this feeling of disconnect between the audience and the singer.
If you”ve chosen a great song with a powerful, relevant message, then most of your audience should feel at some point that you are delivering a word straight from God directly and specifically for them. Today we’ll discuss 3 things you can do to instantly start connecting deeper with your audience.
1. Open Your Eyes!
I actually wrote a 2-part blog on this subject a while back called “Why You Should Never Sing Entire Songs With Your Eyes Closed”. But the short version is this. Every song you sing is like a conversation with the audience. It’s like a mini-sermon or a direct message from God. Imagine then, if you heard that your friend was going through a terrible time and you wanted to encourage them. Would you look at the wall behind them or your feet or simply spend the whole conversation talking to them with your eyes closed? Or would you look right at them and deliver the words that God placed on your heart to give them?
That is why it’s important you look into the eyes of people in the audience when you sing. If your eyes are closed the entire time your audience feels disconnected personally. Even if they’re enjoying the performance they’re not likely to feel that deep personal sense of connection if they’re watching someone who seems to be in their own world, completely oblivious that they’re even in the room. While there will always be moments in the song you’ll close your eyes briefly, every singer should endeavor to make eye contact with members in the congregation while you sing. Keep your eyes moving from one person to the other. Move from one side to the other and front to back, briefly making eye contact with someone in each section as you sing a certain line or make a certain point lyrically. This makes the person you’re looking at feel like God is speaking directly to them through you.
2. Make your facial expressions match what you’re singing!
Facial expressions are seldom given much thought at all when we sing, but they are very important. Going back to the point I made earlier about how singing performances are like conversations with your audience, you can imagine how irritating and/or just plain weird it would be to be having a conversation with someone where their facial expressions are serious and stoic even though the subject matter is funny. Seems obvious when you relate it to having a regular speaking conversation. Yet quite often you see singers-Gospel singers especially- singing songs about joy or happiness but never smiling.
Make sure you really spend time with the lyrics of your song and understand the central message. Get in touch with the emotion that you feel when you read the lyrics in the verses, for example. Then make sure that when you sing them, your facial expressions show those emotions. This has a powerful effect on the audience when you combine it with eye to eye contact. Remember in order to connect deeper with the audience you have to draw them into a personal conversation with you. You can’t have a conversation about anything you have any feeling at all about without showing facial expressions that match what you’re feeling. The same should be true when you’re singing.
3. Use body language!
It’s quite common when you’re engaged in a conversation with someone to be animated. We all use head gestures, hands, body language and the like to help us visually express what we’re saying. Every singer should do the same thing during a performance. If you’re talking about going higher, or singing about Heaven, why not point towards the sky? If you’re singing about uncertainty or not knowing, shrug your shoulders. If you’re saying to the audience “He will”, then declare it by looking directly into someone’s eyes, pointing at them and emphatically nodding your head up and down. If you’re saying “I know for myself” then pat your chest and let your audience see that.
These are all very simple things we all do in every day conversation. Things that make face to face conversation such a powerful way of expressing a point. There are things you want to say to someone that you don’t want to say over the phone. Why? Because of the visual power of face-to-face conversation. It stands to reason then that taking these elements into your singing performances will draw your audience into your message and speak directly to them. And that’s when a song moves from a “performance” to ministry.
Image courtesy of Stuart MilesFreeDigitalPhotos.net