They say America's got talent. This weekend, they will find out if Tampa does, too.
For the first time, the NBC talent show America's Got Talent is holding auditions in Tampa. All ages and talent welcomed. The more unusual, the better.
"We look for acts that judges will either love or, at least, have something to talk about,'' Jason Raff, the show's executive producer, said. "There's no room for mediocrity.''
Raff has been with the show since the beginning and has seen just about everything. Still, every once in a while an act comes through that surprises the producers, he said. He hopes that happens in Tampa.
Here is some of his advice for making the most out of auditions.
Budget your time wisely. A lot of singers believe they have to start at the beginning of the song, rather than at a point that best demonstrates their voice. You only have 90 seconds. If you end a song right before a big note, producers will feel ripped off.
Be original. "If you're a dancer or a dance group, you want to show some choreography or moves that we haven't seen before and that are unique to you,'' he said. "If you're a singer, you want to sing a song that hasn't been sung a thousand times before.'' Check the show's website for a list of overused songs. Yes, that means no Katy Perry's Firework and Miley Ray Cyrus' The Climb.
Skip the unknown. Although it's tempting for some contestants to sing their own material, judges and the voting viewers frown on it. "You're much better off doing your own rendition of a song that people know,'' Raff said. "If you go to a Rolling Stones concert, they don't start with the new material. They start it with a big hit and then they work their way to the new material.''
Expect to wait. It's not uncommon to stand in line for six or seven hours, especially on Saturday, which is usually busier than Sunday. There's no advantage to auditioning either day, although if you want to see host Nick Cannon, get to the Tampa Convention Center on Saturday morning. (Celebrity judges Sharon Osbourne, Howie Mandel and the departing Piers Morgan will not be there.) A team of producers will look at all the acts and pick their 100 favorites over the next several weeks. Contestants will find out in January if they advance to perform in front of the celebrity judges and a live local audience in March. No one will run out of a room, jumping up and down with a golden ticket during this weekend's auditions.
Come prepared. Too often auditioners don't know what song they are going to do, or they bumble the words, Raff said. Practice in front of a mirror or video camera ahead of time. If the thought of performing live in front of 2,000 people makes you want to crawl into a hole and die, then stay home.
Be fearless. Exude confidence, even if you're an introvert. "We've found that talent is about 75 percent of it and stage presence and personality is about 25 percent,'' he said. "How you come into a room, how you act and how you talk can go a long way.''
Partner up. Consider joining forces with another performer. The show doesn't get a lot of singing groups, so choose a group well, and you could stand out in a sea of solo artists.
Just try it. It's a fun experience, Raff said, even if you get the gong. You meet cool people in line and get to be part of the show's history. "I think it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,'' he said. "We're not going to Tampa every year, so why not give it a shot? So you wasted a couple of hours? It's an event.''