Monday, September 10, 2012

Perception of Quality

At karate tournaments, I’ve heard judges say they can tell how well someone will do a form just by how they enter the ring.  How confident are they?  How precise?  Are they rushed?  Are they relaxed?  Too relaxed?  To some degree, a judge really can get a good feel for what sort of score a person will get before they even start the form.

Now, when you go watch a performance – taiko or otherwise – how long does it take for you to start judging the quality of the show?

Let me give you some examples of things I’ve seen and I want you to think about what sort of judgments you would make:

  • Members with messy hair 
  • Members with sloppy costuming (not the costumes themselves, but how they wear them) 
  • Drums on stage not set in their cradles/lopsided 
  • Members before a show in view of the audience, cracking jokes and having fun 
  • Members practicing a song in view of the audience 
  • A really nervous MC (from the group) 
  • Members eating between songs

Odds are, most of you would expect less from the performance after seeing some of these.  Mind you, there are definitely times when it’s not a big deal.  If I’m at an outdoor festival and it’s a collegiate group and there’s 30 minutes before they go on, a lot of those on the list above wouldn’t be a big deal.  But in other situations, they give me at least a little pause…

Professionalism is often about appearances, but not just surface-deep.  If a member takes care to make sure their hachimaki is even or their obi is pristine, then they’re more likely to take the performance seriously and have probably been more likely to take practices seriously as well.

You have to be careful about expectations though, because if you equate a scruffy beard and an old T-shirt with a lack of talent, Jerry Garcia and Kurt Cobain might have something to say about that.  Yes I know they’re deceased.  It was a joke.  Moving on…

It’s definitely possible for a group with awkwardly-worn clothing and an MC who doesn’t look comfortable to give a performance that is really enjoyable.  It’s just that I’m less likely to expect that to happen.  It’s certainly more likely that a group that looks and acts impeccable will give a lackluster performance, actually.

So what does this mean for you?  Well, how do you present yourself to the audience?  They are making assumptions based on how you act even before the performance has started.  You might think that practicing a song off on the side is a good way to be prepared, but the audience might think it means you’re nervous and not ready to play it.  Again, it doesn’t mean you won’t blow them away once you actually perform, but perception still affects one’s enjoyment.

Think of a performance as a meal in a restaurant: You might be presented with an amazing plate of food, but if you’ve been staring at dirty silverware before it arrived, it will be harder for you to enjoy the meal…

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