Build Your Room’s Energy

Taken by Beatrice Murch (blmurch)

One thing you’ll hear performers talk a lot about is the “energy” of a room. This is to say, the general feeling in the air that is either brought in by the audience or thrust upon them once they have entered a space. While there’s a lot to be said about “feeling the room”, you really need to have good energy for a performance to work. Even the best act of all time can bomb when the energy is bad or low, and sometimes the worst act can come out shining just because the energy is high. In short, the energy is nothing less than the foundation on which you build your set- and building that energy early on is 100% necessary.

Good promoters and hosts know that it’s crucial to keep the audience energy up. Often times, it’s as easy as making sure there aren’t any distractions in the room that divert attention. This can include turning off TVs, removing rowdy audience members, and keeping a spotlight on the stage. There are many ways a performer can keep the audience’s focus- for instance, taking down a heckler in a hilarious way during a show. But the best shows are ones where the attention is on the stage from the start, where the energy is focused and alive.

That’s the important part here: focused and alive. In a way, energy is really nothing more than the focus of the room. If the focus of the room is split, you just can’t get that energy back. Time and again I have seen a fantastic space with plenty of room and potential. Performers can’t figure out why the energy in such a space is so low or out of order, and the answer is usually something simple: there’s a railing between the stage and the audience, there’s loud music coming from another room, the lighting is the same onstage as it is elsewhere, etc.

And it’s not just in performances, either- it can be in any public speaking setting. Imagine a meeting room or a lecture hall you’d want to speak in. The best ones have all chairs and tables angled at the front of the room where you’ll stand. There’s equipment there which will keep the focus of your audience; the rest of the room is relatively neutral. Lunch meetings might be welcome treats for your employees, but the lingering scent of take-out noodles will keep them distracted. You want to keep the energy of that room focused and alive- just like any other performer.

Build your energy early on. Enter the space and really get a feel for what it will be like when the audience enters. Try to find potential problems before they will affect your performance and either fix them or learn to live with them. If you can get intro music to play you onstage, choose something which matches the mood of your set and something you’re comfortable with. Once you’re onstage just own whatever the room gives you. It’s hard to stay present and keep focus (after all, you’re about to put yourself out there to a crowd). But if it were easy- hey, everyone would do it.

What’s your energy story? Have you got any tips?

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One thought on “Build Your Room’s Energy

  1. Hey George, I really like your post. It’s so true the “energy room” theory. I have a story to share…
    I recently performed at an open mic and I painfully bombed in front of everyone I invited. When I walked in the room I knew in my gut that it wasn’t going to be a good show. The host wasn’t loved by the audience for some good reasons and also by failing with basic performing techniques – such as a clear voice on stage. As soon as I stepped on stage I felt that the audience wished all the comedians exploded and died. But I did my best and did my best to lighten things up a little. Nothing worked ,so after a couple of minutes I decided to wrap it up and leave the stage. I said goodbye to the crowd but the host didn’t show up. In fact, he was checking is phone. Great. So I made a joke making it clear that he should pick up the show. Surprisingly he looked at me and told me to continue since I had time left. I didn’t want to! My face was red and I felt ashamed, but there was no way out. So I was able to dribble my way and improvise a whole new set for the remaining minutes. It sounds a lot worse than it actually was but because I’m very dramatic it all read like the a comedian saga. It actually wasn’t so bad – I got something out of it at the end. But anyway, in my opinion the job of a host is not only keep the energy up but also keep the show moving. A sensitive host is able to read and direct the mood of the room towards the acts. So my question is do you think the good energy vibe in a room is exclusively the hosts responsibility or the performers? Or both?


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