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How to Be Seen & Heard How YOU Want

Identity & Purpose | 0 comments

After my son died, I felt like my life and identity were shattered in front of me. I took the year after to explore who I wanted to be. It led me on a path of “firsts.” I was already stretched beyond my limits, so I felt like to bring myself home to ME, it might help if I try something new.

If you want to be seen and heard as YOU, it can feel scary but also command people’s attention in ways you’ve never experienced. That’s what happened for me and it can happen for you too.

One of my “firsts” was a performance at a music industry showcase in one of Toronto’s popular music venues. But not a regular performance, because that would be too easy.

If you weren’t there or on the livestream, imagine this…

Indie folk band.

Rock band.

Rock band.

Metal band.

And then me… Indigenous woman in regalia gets up on stage with frame drum. Then, as instructed by Spirit, I did a special water/womb healing ceremony with a channelled medicine song… with a guitarist I’d never played with, after only one rehearsal.

Talk about a first! I captivated the audience, even people whose faces were saying “what the hell is this?” Yeah, not a rock band, nope.

HOT TIP: I had a plan going in. Even when I had a major, horrible setback, I still managed to do it.

Out of about 7 or 8 different bands I saw… I had the biggest and most engaged audience of all of them. Because of many of you, I got a prime time spot on stage. These were really good bands BUT I had a plan AND I allowed Spirit to flow through and outside of that plan.

This is in the order that it happened, with shenanigans in between. I’m not perfect, I didn’t have the plan all figured out right away, and I improvised when necessary. Improvising is always part of my plans.

How I Did It

… and how you can too, with whatever your big passion is and whatever your reason is to be seen and heard. This is how you get yourself seen and heard in the way YOU want to be remembered.

1. Once you say YES, put that YES into action.

I was seriously considering saying NO for a few days before I made my decision. As soon as I said YES to this gig, I sat down and designed my set list (song choices). Which songs would be best for this audience to get their attention? Then I planned the in-between-the-songs stuff.

What was I going to say? What message did I want to share? How could I make myself stand out? So ask yourself these questions. What’s your message? What would touch and move the audience best?

How can you stand out, even if it’s just you going to a networking event, or meeting with someone influential?

2. Make the commitment. Get it into your calendar.

I didn’t give myself the chance to back out, even though it was kind of nerve-wracking. As soon as I had my set list and ideas laid out, I marked down rehearsal time for that day and every day after, in my calendar.

3. Rehearse and take it up a notch!

I rehearsed my ass off! There were only maybe 2 off days where I was dealing with grief or intense body pain, that I didn’t rehearse. Other than that, I rehearsed every single day. Here’s the magic: I didn’t just practice the songs.

When I rehearse, I act as if I’m on the stage, doing the show, with the people in front of me. I imagine they’re actually there. I wave at them. I encourage them to participate in my interactive pieces. I prance around in my apartment with my mic in my hand because yes, I have a mic and mic stand so I can make it real. I even set up a table for my drum and sacred items. I said the things I’d say to the audience… and that was when I realized I was missing some pieces…

4. Do Your Research and Invite a Positive Response.

I realized that I had never thought seriously about how to begin and end a song effectively, like what you say and do to elicit a good crowd response, besides “and the next song blah blah”. That was a serious gap in my ability to put on a great show. After all my 31 years of professional singing up to that point, I’d never done that before. And now, with me doing sacred Indigenous healing songs (not just reggae like I used to), often the audience doesn’t know if it’s appropriate to clap.

I learned how to invite applause from the audience. I also asked my friends and supporters to clap especially after the ceremony, so people would know it was okay to do that. If you want to be seen and heard YOUR way, you’ve got to literally set the stage for that, through your actions, your stance, your words, and how you show up.

5. Create an Experience.

Instead of just creating a set list of songs I would perform, I created a true show. I created an experience for people. I hired a guitarist – the lead guitarist from my friend’s rock band. I knew he’d be good but he was way more than good.

There’s also a fine line between over-rehearsed, over-scripted talks and freely channelling what you’re saying or doing. We’ve all had those telemarketing calls where they’re literally reading from a script. When you’re expressing yourself on stage or for some kind of presentation, do as much as you can from your heart and soul and leave the script behind.

It takes practice, like every day, but it’s so much more powerful that way. So when you rehearse, never speak word for word exactly the same every time. Then if you forget one part, you’re screwed on stage, but also it will sound stilted and feel devoid of your energy.

If you just want to be seen and heard in a regular conversation or by people who don’t take your boundaries seriously, you can still use these tips but of course you would never script out what you want to say to a friend or loved one. Being REAL is always best.

6. Promote Yourself, even if you’re not a business owner.

Let the influential people in your circle know what you’re up to and ask for their support to help you be seen and heard. Keep in mind HOW you want to be seen and heard and what you want to be remembered for. Maybe you’re looking for a job or you want your friends to know something new about you, or you want an introduction to someone you like.

I started talking about this whole thing on social media, at in-person social events (pre-pandemic) and with friends, before I even really knew what I was going to do. I thought about HOW I wanted people to see me.

You don’t have to know the whole picture yet. It gets people excited for you and supporting you before the word even gets out.

7. Ask Questions to Get Clear.

I asked a lot of questions of the event promoter, and of myself. I wanted to know as much as I could about the opportunity, the venue, the stage, the sound system, as many details as I could get.

Even if it’s just you going out to a social event, the more you know about what you’re getting into, the more confident you will be and the more fun you will have. I literally had zero stage fright once I was on stage. That’s actually pretty rare, even for me, and it’s because I was so well-prepared and clear about my vision and how I wanted people to see and remember me.

Ask yourself questions. What image do you want to portray? What positive qualities do you want people to remember you for?

8. Go with the flow.

2 weeks before the show, I went to my friend’s Full Moon Fire Ceremony as usual, and had a vision of a womb healing water ceremony I was to do on that big stage. I added that to my rehearsal and overall plan. I got the idea to bring out my healing medicine stick, which I NEVER bring out in public. I trust my intuition and ideas. Even that evolved into something else.

9. Connect Your Vision to Your New Reality.

Something cool happened automatically once I was on stage. When I looked out at the audience and stood in front of the mic, I was able to connect my vision I’d been holding to the reality in front of me. I truly had created this experience by doing all those rehearsals and some of those people I had imagined in front of me were there!

10. Get Your Passion On! Light yourself up!

Do whatever it takes to have that kind of energy when you’re trying to be seen and heard. When you shrink away and are afraid of attention, or having the spotlight, you make yourself invisible. It’s the kind of magic you don’t want to be using. Your energy will hide you, or show you off in a way you DON’T want. But when you’re in your passion, people notice that in a really positive way.

A Word About Setbacks:

Setbacks are part of human life. Here’s what happened to me and how I still managed to do the show and be seen and heard how I want…

A few days before my show, I ripped a nice cut into my hand that holds the mic and my shaker. It took a while to stop bleeding and still hurt on the day of the show. Grief and retraumatization came up around my son. Body pain hit me the day before the show. On the day of the show, one of my legs went into a big long muscle spasm and none of the tricks I know for that worked to stop it. I couldn’t even put weight on the foot without incredible pain.

Here’s the thing. I have a musician’s mentality of “The show must go on!” Not to mention I hadn’t worked my ass off to sell over 60 tickets so I could get a prime time performance spot for nothing. I bought more Band-Aids. I used cedarwood essential oil on my hand. I did more research. I called on my supporters and I asked for help, knowing there was a good chance I might not be able to walk without a cane and might even have to sit down on stage. I knew a lot of what I had planned might go down the drain with this pain.

Thanks to the prayers and healing energy my supporters were sending me, some advice from a friend and the help of several supporters and friends the night of the show, I pulled it off. It was my best show to date.

I was able to stand and even walk up and down the stairs, which never happens after one of those charley horses. I did need some help on stage, which gave one of the women I’ve mentored an unexpected last minute no warning… chance to be seen on that stage too.

BOTTOM LINE: To be seen and heard how you want, let your creativity and passion out to play.

Love & Blessings,

Brenda MacIntyre, Medicine Song Woman



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About Brenda MacIntyre

About Brenda MacIntyre

Known by her indigenous name Medicine Song Woman, Brenda MacIntyre has shared her evocative melodic voice and fusion of reggae, rap and indigenous hand drum healing music with appreciative audiences of 30 to 3,000 across North America. The Toronto-based Juno Award-winning singer has been featured nationally on MuchMusic, CTV, CP24, APTN and most recently, Global and the front page of the Toronto Star.

Powered by her grief from losing her son to murder in 2016, Brenda MacIntyre pours her soulful voice over a confluence of indigenous hand drum healing, soft rap and conscious roots reggae in her album “Picking Up the Pieces,” released in September 2019.

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