Believe it or not, most of what our audience members see and hear have nothing to do with how well our ensemble sings. Regardless of how talented and well-prepared our ensembles are, there are simple things that we can do to improve our concert at the very last moment.

A concert is only successful if it is enjoyed and appreciated by our audience; while our performance is a reflection of the hard work our singers have put forth over the course of weeks and months, this is not the determining factor on how our concert is perceived by audience members.

I’ve compiled 10 SIMPLE Concert Tips that can make a big impact. These details are frequently overlooked yet impact the success of any concert.


Here are 10 SIMPLE concert tips that will make a big difference:

1. Start your performance on time

It’s better to have latecomers scrambling to find a seat than to have punctual audience members waiting for our show to begin. When we start on time, our audience members innately recognize that we value their time. This effort on our part informs and prepares our audience for an efficient concert.

Alternative Concert Assignment – for students who miss the concert

2. Provide concert etiquette for the audience

Signs should be posted with clear etiquette AND it should be part of a clear opening speech. It’s important to begin the concert by succinctly explaining to audience members when they can talk, when they can enter/leave the concert hall, if/when they can take flash photos, how and when they can respond to our ensembles. It also helps if we give a brief overview of the length and vision of the performance in an effort to prepare our audience for their experience.

11 Tips To Eliminating Rude Audience Behavior!

Here’s an example of clear guidelines for concert etiquette:

  • Please turn off all cell phones.
  • Only speak in between performances.
  • Acknowledge our performers with applause (please refrain from shouting or calling specific names).
  • Please only exit or enter the venue between songs.
  • You many only take photographs without flash.

Please note that all behaviors/actions were addressed in a positive manner. We love our audiences members and want them (and the performers) to have the best possible concert-going experience.

3. Always speak to your audience with a microphone

It doesn’t matter how loud WE think we are: we must always use a microphone when speaking to our audience. Our vocal inflections and warmth will come across when we speak into a microphone and talk at a conversational volume level. Speak directly into the microphone. Too often, conductors turn their head to thank people as the audience loses the ends of sentences. Many directors also think the microphone will do it’s job without speaking directly into it. If we have something to say, let’s ensure our audience can hear it along with our natural, non-screaming vocal inflections.


4. Prepare precisely WHEN you wish to speak

When evaluating our concert program, we should think about the best times to speak. Maybe there are a few spots that require setting up or breaking down of equipment or times when the singers need to move around. This is a perfect time to speak as it not only saves time, but it keeps the audience entertained. There is no entertainment value in watching backstage logistics.


5. Prepare precisely WHAT you wish to say about WHICH pieces

Don’t waste the audience’s time by repeating what is already written in the concert program. Our job as master of ceremonies (yes, that is one of our jobs) is to keep our audience interested and engaged as we move through a concert program of ‘foreign’ music. Unless our audience is comprised of choral directors or is heavily involved in the choral world, they will find the majority of our music to be foreign to them.

While every piece of music has a backstory, there are specific reasons why we may choose to speak about a specific song. It’s helpful to prepare audiences prior to hearing a “foreign” (culturally, linguistically, or emotionally) selection in an effort to properly prepare and engage them.

If our choir was performing Please Stay by Jake Runestad or See Me by Rob Redei, two songs that address mental illness, the way in which we engage the audience is immensely important to their connection and overall experience. 

I highly suggest writing out what you wish to say; it’s okay to deviate when speaking, but those notes will ensure clarity, succinctness, warmth, and professionalism.

Another reason to introduce a selection is when it helps to set-up intended humor. I generally set up a comical piece by being straight-laced and asking the audience to focus on the lyrics or the deeper message.

A larger work may best be set up with a background on the composer, reason for writing it, length of the piece, and engaging information about each movement. Perhaps some explanation on when they can/cannot applaud could be helpful as well. – the most user-friendly music notation program on the market. Save 15% with this link!

6. Prepare your verbal “thank yous”

No audience members wants to sit through long, drawn-out thank you speeches. A prepared list will keep your words short and ensure you remember all important people and WHY you are thanking them. Most performances that include thank you speeches feel like medium-level torture to the audience; one well-planned thank you speech that threads your appreciation for important stake-holders will feel seamless and flow within the concert.

Holiday Caroling Packet – for Christmas and Hanukkah!

7. Caution on-stage “thank you” speeches from your students

In most cases, it is unnecessary for our singers to give a long speech and/or gifts to thank their director. This is best done in private: before or after a concert or during a rehearsal. The concert is not about us. Our connection with our students is based on weeks and months of rehearsals. We don’t need the audience to validate this connection, nor do we need to waste 5-10 minutes of everyone’s time and hinder the flow of our concert.

8. Incorporate basic lighting cues

Simple lighting changes can turn a typical concert into a special performance. A processional, for example can have different lighting than the first piece on the risers. A holiday song could have different colored stage lights or even Christmas lights that plug in. Another simple, yet effective effect is turning on the houselights on the last note before intermission or raising them gradually as a group processes.

9. Provide a concert self-assessment tool for your singers

If your singers know exactly what is expected of them and this is discussed before the concert and followed up with a self-assessment afterwards, your students will likely be on task during the concert. Threats of punishments or grade-lowering is not a viable solution to how students participate in a concert because they then operate out of fear. Concerts should be exciting for our singers. A self-assessment that is explained prior to the concert will all students to become more self-aware and effectively prepare them for what they should be doing throughout the concert.

I suggest using the same self-assessment at the dress rehearsal in order to create a dry run for our singers. In my program, I have a separate self-assessment for regular rehearsals, pre-concert rehearsals, and the actual concert itself.

Post Concert Self-Assessment – have students self-assess personal performance AND the entire group

Here are the things I ask them to self-assess for the concert:

I was on time to the concert (arrived before the call time)
I was fully prepared and dressed appropriately
I was focused from the very start of the warm-up
I demonstrated proper body alignment/posture throughout the performance
I acted appropriately between songs during the performance
I demonstrated consistent eye contact throughout the entire performance
I conveyed a positive attitude on stage
Ensemble entered the risers/stage professionally
Ensemble exited the risers/stage professionally
Ensemble was focused throughout the entire performance
Ensemble remained professional in between performing each song
Ensemble sang with tall, refined vowels
Ensemble sang with great usage of dynamics 
Ensemble sang with emotion/connection to the music
Ensemble conveyed a positive attitude on stage
Ensemble was respectful and professional when not performing

10. View your performance through the lens of an audience member

While it is not our primary job to entertain our audiences, audience members are attending our concert, expecting to be entertained. It is important to recognize our audience members have given up their night to witness our students, their children, perform for them. Understand what they are seeing from beginning to end. Know that they will most likely be unaware of wrong notes and wrong rhythms. We must look at the big picture and understand the details of what a parent can see and hear. While we all want our choirs to sound perfect, it is far more important to have a well-planned, fast-flowing, visually stimulating, and engaging performance.


Last words

Less is more. Concise is better. If a piece hasn’t been working leading up to the concert, cut it. Even if you wrote the piece into the concert program, everyone will appreciate a shorter, better flowing concert.