"Keep in mind, however, that most audiences want you to succeed. They don't want you to be embarrassed because then they get embarrassed for you! So, if something misfires, look at it as part of the process. You shift to plan B and keep moving on." -- Kristin Arnold, Boring to Bravo
Kristin Arnold's book is intended for people who give speeches, but it has much in it that is applicable to being a performer. I am reading a library copy, but it is so full of great advice and information that I will purchase my own copy because I know that I will want to refer to it frequently.
I have mentioned before that your attitude and emotions on stage will be communicated to the audience who will begin to feel the same way. If you make a mistake and let it embarrass you, the audience will be embarrassed. If you make a mistake and continue without it bothering you, it won't bother your audience.
Kristin's advice provides a key to being able to do that, having a plan B. For example, during one period in my career I performed a magic effect that depended upon a thin thread to work. Sometimes that thread would break. So, I developed a way to have a second thread available. If I broke one thread, I could easily obtain the second thread and continue. (That basic concept is one that I learned from Kevin James.)
A few years ago I was in a variety show with a lot of other performers. Two of the performers were using an identical high tech system to remotely control their music which was stored as a file on their lap tops. For some reason their method was not compatible with the sound system in the theater. I did not understand the problem, but they spent 45 minutes trying to get their music to play through the theater's speakers. Finally, they got it to work marginally. During the performance their music did not sound as good as the music used by the other acts which was controlled by a technician in the sound booth. They did not have a plan B so they were stuck with inferior sound.
Because music is important to my performances, I always have a plan B, especially now that there are so many music formats available. I often use an iPod for my music, but at one performance I couldn't get it to play because the battery had run down. So, I have started to carry a power cord that can be used to plug in my iPod. I also carry a CD of the music for each show in case the iPod can't be used. (I have been in some shows where they wanted consistency so they required that all music be on CD.) I burn the CD's using my computer, but I have learned that they can't be played back on every player. So, I test the CD at the venue. In case the CD is not compatible with the house system, I always have a small player with me that I have played the CD on at home so I know it will work. I carry a patch cord to connect it to a sound system. I also have spare batteries for the player plus a power cord. So, in a way I have back ups, and then back ups for the back ups.
I also have a plan B for the content of my shows. I plan my show, and then have some additional props for alternate routines. The timing of my style of audience interaction entertainment depends upon the type of feedback I get during a specific performance. Last November I appeared in a variety show with matinee and evening performances. There were many kids in the matinee audience who excitedly yelled instructions at me when I did things wrong. I played with their response which extended some of my routines. The evening audience was mainly adults who were less willing to respond to me verbally. So, I cut short my interaction routines, and added a silk magic routine I had not performed in the earlier show. The stage manager told me that my acts were exactly the same length at both shows.
What can go wrong during a show? What plan B will allow you to continue successfully? What plan B will give you the flexibility to give the best possible performance under different conditions?