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Talent Show Tips for a Winning Performance

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Kill it at the Talent Show!

It’s never too early to start working on your act for the talent show. Preparation is the key to putting together an awesome act that will help you ace the audition and knock the socks off of the audience on the big night. Read on for some tried-and-true tricks and tips to help you put on your best act yet -- possibly even the best act in the entire show.

Costumes add much to your act, but not every act needs a costume. Rock bands, in particular, give off a cool vibe when members look as though they put minimal effort into their appearance.

Costumes add much to your act, but not every act needs a costume. Rock bands, in particular, give off a cool vibe when members look as though they put minimal effort into their appearance.

This little boy is only in first grade, but shows emotion wonderfully and has a confident stage presence.

Choose Your Act Wisely

The first step is deciding upon a great act. Your choice might be obvious -- if you take music, voice or dancing lessons and already have a piece you’ve been working on for your recital, you’ve got a talent show act ready to go.

Of course, even if you haven’t been taking lessons you can still sing, dance or play an instrument. However, those aren’t the only talents out there. Maybe you’re great at gymnastics, karate, magic or yo-yo tricks. A group of girls might want to get together and perform a cheerleading routine, or if you’re an aspiring comedian, you could write and perform an original stand-up act. If you’re in the drama club, you and some other members could perform your favorite scene from a play.

Even if you don’t have a traditional “stage” talent, there are plenty of options. If you need some ideas, check out my articles “Funny Talent Show Ideas,” “More Funny Talent Show Ideas” and “Talent Show Ideas for Kids.” You’ll find all sorts of choices, from the hilarious to the original to the traditional. Some of the acts require a specific talent, but many of them require only the desire to get on stage and ham it up.

If you're planning on singing in the talent show and would like some song ideas, check out this list of Awesome Talent Show Songs, complete with tips on choosing a song that is great for your voice.

Whatever you choose to perform in the talent show, make sure it’s something that you’ll have fun with, something that will work on the stage that is available to you, and something that is appropriate for the venue. In other words, if the talent show is held by your school or church, there should be no songs with profanity or dances with suggestive moves.

These guys obviously put in a lot of practice. I love their simple costumes and the fact that you can understand everything they say.

Practice, Practice, Practice

This one is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people just get up on stage and try to wing it. Even if your act turns out surprisingly well without rehearsals, it will be 100 times better if you practice.

Rehearse as often as possible. When you think you have practiced enough, rehearse some more. Have a friend or your parents video some of your rehearsals. You can then review the videos to see what’s working and what’s not. Improve your act based on the videos, then record and watch it again to make sure the changes are truly improvements.

Practice on the actual talent show stage and wear your costume whenever possible. That way you’ll know in advance if the stage is too small or your costume is itchy, rather than having to make adjustments at the last minute. Even if you can’t practice in costume or on the stage every time, practice at home or wherever you can as often as possible. You’ll be glad you did.

A colorful, bright, off-the-rack dress makes an eye-catching but easy costume that can be also be worn to church or school. How practical!

A colorful, bright, off-the-rack dress makes an eye-catching but easy costume that can be also be worn to church or school. How practical!


Costumes don’t have to be fancy to be effective. Get creative and figure out something, which is way better than nothing. Shop at discount stores or thrift stores, or dig down in your closets and use old clothes that you never wear anymore. Use makeup, paper, yarn, fabric scraps, old tablecloths – whatever you can think of to give yourself the look your act needs. It doesn’t have to look perfect up close. The audience will be off in the distance, so concentrate on creating effects with your costumes rather than worrying about complete accuracy in every detail.

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If you are singing, playing an instrument or performing some other act that doesn’t necessarily require a costume, wear your nicest clothes, such as a dress or a suit. Or, dress the part, depending on your act. For example, if your act is a hip-hop song, dress similarly to the artist who originally recorded the song.

If you’re in a group act such as a group dance or cheer routine, wear matching or coordinated costumes. These don’t have to be fancy. Matching shorts and tees in bright colors are inexpensive and easy to find, but will give your group a professional, cohesive look.

A simple but elegant and slightly sparkly dress, plus great posture and emotion, gives her act professional polish.

A simple but elegant and slightly sparkly dress, plus great posture and emotion, gives her act professional polish.

More Talent Show Help

Dress to Impress!

Short can be Sweet

Don't drag your act out past the audience's attention span. Even the best singer or the funniest skit can become boring if the act wears out its welcome. If the song you're singing, playing or dancing to is too long, cut it shorter. Choose your favorite verses and drop the rest. Two to three minutes is a good amount of time for a song or a skit, but is only a guideline. There are terrific acts that are shorter and terrific acts that are longer. Break out that video camera, record your act and ask friends and family for feedback.

Variety is the Spice of the Talent Show

If it turns out that a large number of people are performing your basic act, such as singing, dancing or playing the piano, ask the person in charge of the show (early on) if you can change your act. For the audience, there is nothing quite as unexciting as sitting through the tenth broken-hearted Taylor Swift song of the evening. (Listen closely and you will hear everyone in the audience sigh deeply and then shift in their seats to settle in for the long haul.)

The director may allow you to switch your act to somerthing more unique and original, and you could end up stealing the show rather than getting lost in it. See the links in the blue box to the right for ideas.

Quick Tips to Perfect Your Act

Below are some practical tips to help your performance look and sound as professional as possible. Don’t wait until the night of the show to implement them. Start now, while you’re practicing, and by the time the show comes around, they’ll be second nature and you won’t have to think about them.

  • Speak up and slow down. When people are up on stage, they are often overcome by shyness or nervousness and speak their lines too quietly, too quickly, or both, making it impossible for the audience to hear and/or understand. If there’s a microphone available to you, use it. Speak as plainly, loudly and slowly as possible. It will make all the difference.
  • Smile, smile, smile. Even if you’re overcome with stage fright or embarrassed because you just made a mistake in your performance, smile and it will appear as though you are having fun. Better yet, smile and act like you’re having fun, and you will probably discover that you actually are having fun. If a smile doesn't suit your act, show emotion that does. Don't be an emotionless talent show robot.
  • Posture makes a big difference. Stand or sit up straight, whether you’re singing, dancing, acting a skit, showing off your yo-yo skills or emceeing the show. Hold your head and chin up, your shoulders back and your back straight. Practice this during your regular rehearsals and it will become second nature.
  • Keep your eyes focused straight ahead at the audience. If you are nervous and don’t want to make eye contact with anyone, look at the tops of the audience members’ heads, or even the air above them -- just don’t look down at the floor or your feet.
  • Consider sitting on a stool. If you’re singing a sad song, slow song, or something gentle such as a folk song and you’re not comfortable moving around on stage, consider sitting on a tall stool rather than just standing there. It will look more natural and relaxed, as opposed to standing there stiffly for the duration of the song.
  • Just keep going. If you forget your lines or lyrics, drop your baton or fall off of your pogo stick, just keep going like nothing happened. The only other acceptable option is to make light of your mistake by making a silly face, taking a quick bow or some other funny gesture. The audience will understand. They don’t expect perfection. In fact, sometimes a funny reaction to a mistake makes the act more entertaining.
  • End professionally. When your act is finished, stop, smile, wave to the audience, take a 3-second bow, wave again, then walk proudly off stage, smiling, with your head held high.

One More Thing

Be prepared for the unexpected. Make up a little kit with such things as a needle and thread, safety pins, an extra copy of your music, a spare set of guitar strings, some Advil or Tylenol, a hairbrush and hairspray, makeup, lip balm, throat gargle, Bandaids or whatever you can think of that you might need in case of emergency. Knowing you’re prepared will help you relax and have fun. Even if you end up not needing them, your supplies might come in handy for some other performer who finds himself or herself in a bind.


SmartAndFun (author) from Texas on May 11, 2012:

Thank you so much for your kind words, Vampdes. I'm so glad you think it could be helpful. I appreciate your votes, also! Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

Jenny Stub from Missouri, US on May 10, 2012:

This would be excellent advice for all those school talent shows! Parents and their children could read this together and come up with a great act! I myself never participated in a talent show in school.

I was too shy and also had no idea what I could do. This will be a huge help for those kids out there looking to perform in the talent show! Great hub, voted up!

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