I have a motto that I live by: I don’t lose twice. Every time I fall short, I always get excited (after I pout) because I know my next talk is going to be fire. Yep, it happened again. Cal Sate San Bernardino got the best Jonathan Sprinkles had to offer on May 6th. I haven’t said that about myself in a long, long time. I felt that tension again. It’s the tension that exists between the speaker and the audience when they’re on the edges of their seats, hanging on every word. I felt more like John Legend than Jonathan Sprinkles. People stayed an extra hour to eat and do more Q&A. Okay, maybe it was the food that kept them around more than me. Whatever! It was my first “afterparty!” All we lacked were some bottles of Moet and the teenage groupies trying to sneak in the back door.
They clapped all through my talk. I actually messed up by not stopping and letting them clap more. I get so caught up in the emotion of what I’m saying, I don’t want to slow down. As a manager of the energy in the room, this is a mistake. People want to “feel” you. They want to experience your stories as you relive them from the platform. Clapping, shouting, laughing, etc. are all forms of the audience processing your information in their minds.
Comedians are always told not to move on to the next joke until the laughter dies down from the first. It’s called “stepping on your laugh line.” When this happens, the comic subconsciously trains the audience not to laugh too hard because they may miss the next joke. So, instead of getting a level 8 or 9 laugh, the audience stays at a 4 or 5 so they can keep up with the pace. Overall, the comic is less effective and doesn’t connect with the audience as much as those who allow the audience to fully process their laughter.
The same is true for speakers. If you move away from one point too quickly, you prevent the crowd from having the experience they desire. People need time to think. They need time to feel. They need time to laugh. They need time to say, “Yep, that’s so true!” and “That reminds me of…” Managing emotions is a beautiful artform, man! In order to be adept at this, you have to:
1. Know your talk-You should already know the high and low moments where people will need some extra time to be ‘in the moment.’ Every audience is different, so not everyone will respond the same way. But knowing when the “ooh aaah” should come will ensure you’re prepared.
2. Be present- Again, every audience is different, so what is funny to one crowd may not be to another. And what isn’t funny to one crowd may be hilarious to another. You can’t be so rigid about your outline that you only pause at the parts you feel are “deep.” Let them tell you. A great communicator knows how to find an audience’s “hot spots” and alter the message mid-stream if they’re responding to a certain part. It’s never about what you want to say, it’s about what they need to hear!
3. Dig deep- One of the worst feelings on the platform is knowing that you have just hit a “hot spot” but you don’t have enough depth of wisdom on that subject to keep flowing. They can be shouting HALLELUJAH but if you don’t have some good one-liners, a series of jokes, or a plan for going deeper on that subject, you’re done. The crowd is, in their own way, begging you to keep talking about this because they’re feeling you and you have to pull up and move on to the next point. That sucks! This takes me back to my first point about knowing your talk. When I say your “talk”, I am referring to every chunk of your talk, as well as several alternate versions. For example, when I talk to young people, they love when I deal with how to handle the “haters” in your life. Even if I had lost them up until then, they get tuned in and turned on. I know this, so I have a good 5 minutes worth of material I can pull from if I discover it’s one of their “hot spots.” Some audiences could care less about haters, so I have to keep throwing out different bait until I find what gets them going. At that point, I have to be prepared to dig deep into a different file so I can talk on that subject. I keep my mental vault stacked with chunks of information that I can pull out at any moment and strategically insert them to intensify the connection. This is the “secret” behind being relevant to your audiences and making people feel like you made your talk exclusively for them. Remember this: cookie cutter don’t cut it!
I’ve got to thank my new friends, Bart Baggett, and Beth for coming out. I’m going to buy his handwriting analysis course, it’s so hot!
Kyle Gordon, you’re a good man. Congratulations on your graduation! Be sure to pass on the wisdom to the SAAB chapter. Make sure the next person in charge knows to call and email me reguarly. I’m here for y’all!