What to do if there’s a “so-called” disaster onstage…
I’ve had them all. I’ve had fire engines going right by and staying right in front of the building. I’ve had people… I’ve had a woman go into labor – swear to God – we had to stop the presentation, get the EMR, get… I’ve had it all.
But the one that comes back to me the most: I’m speaking in California, I’m outside. There’s a group of about 200 and bleachers and the sound system fails, and, the backup sound system fails and I tell them, “No problem. I’m an actor. I can speak big.”
And I was doing just great until the El Toro marine base airshow dress rehearsal happened overhead. The jets were going – I mean you couldn’t ignore them, so what did I do – did I pretend they weren’t there? No, I used them. I had fun with them. I pointed up, I spoke in between jets and I had the audience laughing because they knew what was happening.
They knew it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t a disaster. It was just life. Life is going to happen. If you’re a speaker, use whatever’s happening – even if you think of it is a disaster – but use it. The audience will love you for it. And they’re going to probably go away remembering, “gosh, I can’t believe how well he did when those jets were overhead.”
Most people are concerned about being boring on stage.
And the fact is, most of the time – if you’re talking about something that you care about and you do it with some passion – you’re not going to be boring. But, maybe you’ve been given something at the last minute to throw in or you’re talking about something technical and you notice that the audience is not with you. I mean, they’re looking at their cell phones, they’re gazing out the window, some of them are asleep.
Well, that’s a real signal! And you can do something about it. You can raise your voice. You can move around on stage. You can go into the audience. You can stand by someone who’s using their cell phone. You can do whatever you want to do to try to break that lethargy and get them back. Maybe you’ll ask a question, maybe you’ll give them a break.
Maybe you’ll… whatever you need to do to bring them back – if they’re bored – do it. Don’t let that continue. And maybe you’ll just have to have a lot more energy in the rest of your presentation or maybe you’ll have to have more interactive moments – but you are in charge.
You are in charge, and you can stop that boring moment and turn it into a moment that brings the class and back to you.
Most people fear making a mistake more than anything.
And what is a mistake? It’s just a human natural phenomenon. We all make mistakes. I have made every kind of mistake you can possibly imagine on stage. I’ve forgotten where I am and I’ve asked the audience to help me. I have had to pause to get the right word and sometimes I’ve never gotten it and I’ll just say, “I can’t remember the word!”
I have… recently. I was introduced to a group and got a nosebleed during the introduction! But I had to go on and I just put some Kleenex out my nose, gave a wonderful presentation, and just let them know I was dealing with it and they were fine.
Audiences are there to support you. They’re not there to judge so much. They’re on your side. That’s what you’ve got to remember. And they’re human beings just like you are. They don’t hold it against you. If you make a normal mistake, just have fun with it and then move on and the audience will move on with you.