What is “Audience Engagement”?

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What is it that makes a routine grab the audience by the eyeballs and yell at them, “Don’t miss this or you’ll regret it!” Audience engagement, my friends, audience engagement. What is it and how do you get some? Read on:

You can look up the term “audience engagement” and get all kinds of results for performing arts groups (I’m addressing those in the military drill world who perform- we are a performing art, FYI) on how to engage your audience which really is all about getting people to your performance to watch and that’s the other side of what I’m talking about in this article. For that kind of info, click here for some good stuff. This article is dealing with the content of your routine and how it can engage- or put to sleep- your audience.

Let’s liken a routine to a short story. The story is built with words (individual moves) which make sentences or what we will call “phrases,” which then build paragraphs (groups of phrases) which ultimately build our short story (our routine). If you began reading this short story and found the same words repeated again and again or that most of the sentences (phrases) were very short without really much development or even long, run-on sentences, you wouldn’t appreciate it as much as a well-written story. So it is with drill.

Which would you appreciate reading more?
Bobby went to the store for some food.

Bobby, a 20-year old young man, walked the quarter mile from his old red brick house to the grocery store to pick up some items he would need for tonight’s supper.

Mix it Up
To engage your audience, you need highs and lows; excitement (“wow moments”) and visual rest periods. You need punctuation as well. Not every phrase can be ended with an exclamation point, or a period for that matter. Big and small; complex and simple; fast and slow; high and low.

Excellence as an Effect
Yes, excellence is part of engaging your audience, but it shouldn’t be the only thing. Look at the Silent Drill Platoon, they have a high degree of excellence, but they also mix other elements into the program.

The Design Process
As a Driller, you need to create effective moments from start to finish. Just makin’ it up as you go, 99 out of 100, will be the bad choice. Use a variety of body, arm, hand, head, leg and foot movements and, if armed, integrate those movements with your piece of equipment (rifle, sword/saber, flag, guidon). You can even design using parts of your uniform in the routine. Pay attention to detail:

  • Vertical orchestration: each individual moment.
  • Horizontal orchestration: the routine or parts of the routine over time.

More to come!

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