I watched some of the Global Citizen Festival this past Saturday. It was a large concert in Central Park featuring big-name musical acts interspersed with short speeches and videos. Overall, a well-produced event.

But it was an unplanned, spontaneous moment that stood out for me. Right before the final act – Rihanna – Chris Martin of Coldplay walked out with an acoustic guitar, explained that Rihanna wasn’t quite ready and that he was sent out by the producers to fill time.

He proceeded to play two verses and two choruses of Prince’s Raspberry Beret. After the second chorus, while still playing, Martin looked off stage and said “How we doin’ on Rihanna? I don’t know any more verses!” He then improvised a verse of lyrics about his situation; the crowd loved it and so did I.

In the midst of all the tightly-scripted, hyper-produced performances, Martin was honest, spontaneous, and willing to take a risk. The takeaway? Even if you can’t improvise lyrics, you can roll with the circumstances and be real with your audience—more often than not, they’ll appreciate the authenticity.

Here’s Chris Martin performing Raspberry Beret. Start at 2:00 if you just want to see the improvised bit. 

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