How to give a good performance

Do you worry about running late, dropping the mic, or forgetting the name of the person who booked you? Stop worrying! Poet and writer, SM Jenkin, shares her checklist of things to think about before, during and after the gig.

Your performance begins before you leave for the gig! Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Before the gig:

The venue

  • Check the venue name and location details, have them with you.

  • Transport – can you get safely to and from the gig - what happens if it runs later than you think?

  • Who is your contact at the venue?

  • Access – are there mobility issues for you or your potential audience?


Your set

  • How long is your set? Have you been given a timed set?

  • Have you timed your pieces? Write the time on your piece.

  • Is this a guaranteed slot, or one that you sign up for on the night?

  • Does the night have a theme, and does your work touch upon this theme?

  • Can you help promote the gig ahead of time, through social media or word of mouth?

  • Who is the likely audience to be? Do you need to have a family friendly set? Is it likely to be political?


At the gig: 

  • Know who you are talking to! Is this a general crowd or a special interest group?

  • Introduce yourself and mention any social media/ publications you have so people can look you up and maybe even buy a book.

  • Use business cards if you have them.



  • Read the crowd - is your material suitable for them and the time of the performance? Does it need to be family friendly? How do the crowd react to other performers? Do you have alternatives to hand in case your planned set is no longer suitable for the crowd?

  • Plan out the entrance to the performance area – can you see a way onto the stage that doesn't obstruct others? Help you avoid tripping over a cable?

  • Use of the mic

    • observe how others use the mic,

    • adjust the height at the joint, rather than where the microphone is attached to the holder. This way only leads to dropped mics which should be left to the end of your performance when you have wowed the audience...

  • If you are using props, practice using them, and have a back-up in case they fail.

  • Keep books/e-readers at eye level and avoid obscuring your face or body.

  • Make suitable eye-contact with the audience at emotional high spots for emphasis – have these lines memorised.

  • Be mindful of the lighting – can you read your work? Do you need to bring a light with you just in case?

  • If using electronic devices - charge them / set them in airplane mode to avoid interruptions to your set.

  • Use the whole area on the stage – you own it.

  • Be sure to connect with the audience during important parts of your performance.

  • Exit strategy – how do you leave the stage with your dignity intact? How do you get back to your seat? 


After the gig: 

Now is the time to chill with those couple of drinks...

Congratulations on your performance!

SM Jenkin is a Medway-based writer who has performed her poetry internationally. 

Her debut collection 'Fire in the Head' will be published by Wordsmithery in 2018.


Her writing has featured in Confluence#1, #4 and #6.

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