I walked onto the stage dressed as a gingerbread man...a ridiculous-looking gingerbread man named Johnny Ho-Cake. Yep, this was me…
The audience roared. Everyone in that theatre tipped in their seats with laughter; all except for one woman who sat off-center in the front row. She would not laugh - and something told me she wasn’t planning on doing it.
So, I did what any self-respecting woman performing on stage as part of her comedy troupe would do: I played with my fuzzy balls. Yep, I sat on stage and focused on this woman who was seemingly hell-bent on not having fun at a comedy show, and I stared at her intensely while fluffing up my costume’s yarn buttons (or fuzzy balls, as my character Johnny HoCake would call them).
The audience soon caught on to the joke and laughed even harder. And then: she broke. Finally! Her smile crept up and she snickered at the attention I was giving her.
I’ve been performing sketch comedy for 10 years with my troupe, EstroFest. The whole experience has taught me invaluable lessons as a professional speaker, and chief among them is this:
“Go there” every time with your audience; meaning - get vulnerable and open up to invite them “in”.
If you can’t or won’t do this as a speaker, your audience won’t “go there” for you...and that means a lesser connection. As a speaker, there is no greater goal than connecting with your audience. Connecting emotionally means gaining trust and respect, and having influence. #winning...see my point?!
Here’s a few tips on how to “go there”
- Forget how you look. So many of my clients fear they’ll “look silly” or sound stupid if they use bigger gestures or body language - which is often needed to really connect with the audience. A motionless, monotone speaker (even one who tells an amazing story) is often dismissed.
- Learn about your audience. What do they want or need that you can give them in the time you have with them? What do you have in common with them? What troubles them? The answers to these questions will help you write and deliver a talk that is all about them. THAT keeps their interest and lets them honestly walk away from your talk while thinking, “That was the best use of my time.”
Through comedy, we can gain a unique and joyful perspective on the human experience; one that offers levity and can even make us think. At its core, it’s about emotion - human emotion. Whether your talk is serious, funny, educational, motivational or any other format, focus on emotion and “go there”. Otherwise, go home. You’ll save yourself and your audience some precious time.