4 ways to enjoy yourself on stage!

If the world enjoys you and you don’t then you are missing out on…you!

The trade-off for enjoying oneself is worth making.

Agreed, not laughing at your own jokes makes them weirdly funnier.

But, you are better off enjoying them with the audience. If you are serious about enjoying your jokes then laugh in spite of the audience because it’s funny to you!

While the audience claps for you, raise that right hand above your head, bend it backwards and pat yourself!

Acknowledging oneself is better than playing humble.

Instead of dismissing, rejecting or redirecting appreciations accept them with a 32-watt smile and a simple “Thank You!”

Receiving well-wishes wholeheartedly is better than belittling oneself.

Pause and take it in! Go off-script, off-schedule, off-the-grid to look at how far you’ve made it. Reflection is a beautiful way to enjoy one’s efforts.

In short, enjoy yourself while you are on the journey.

Waiting for your turn?

Raising a hand is polite on a zoom call. However, it comes in the way of the conversation.

So, we wish to take the liberty and chime in.

But, culturally we are discouraged to contribute by interrupting someone.

A classic problem faced by Indians that pursue higher studies abroad: That of class interaction where you have to compete for a chance to speak.

Instead of focusing on the call, we look for long pauses where we can butt in, make space and rush through our bit. Or, we just wait to be picked.

Asking the first question.

The tension in the room is palpable when the speaker announces that she’s open for questions.

Asking the first question is always difficult.

Some ways to break the tension and make it work for the audience, the speaker and you.

  1. Raise your complete hand, always. Palms open and facing the speaker.
  2. Introduce yourself in a line.
  3. Take a deep breath before you say your name. This way your last name will be heard clearly.
  4. Prepare 2-3 specific, relevant and short questions before you enter the room! When the time comes you get to choose one. Instead of blanking out or being overwhelmed.
  5. Avoid plugging your product/service behind the question. The audience can see through your stunt and it erodes trust.
  6. For further questions always follow-up with the speaker off-stage. (And ask for their card)
  7. Follow-up again with a Thank You email. Summarise your key takeaways and any actions you will commit to going forward.
  8. Follow-up one more time with the results of your actions and seek feedback.

A question makes a great excuse to start a worthwhile relationship. Don’t discard it. It’s worth raising the hand.

Make the audience suffer.

The audience deserves to be taken on a journey. One that is gripping, emotional and relevant.

Instead of them tolerating you on stage, make them suffer. A little at a time.

A well-placed long pause, a mental activity that demands significant effort, a riddle that seems easy but isn’t, a riff that is politically incorrect, a poem that simply states the harsh truth.

The possibilities are plenty.

Make them cry, laugh, sigh, jump with joy and leave with a head held high!

All in a single speech.

Ps: It need not have a happy ending, a conclusion or anything that offers a closure.

Keep on copying.

There’s a constant theme of copying in the careers of Sam Walton, Warren Buffet and Tony Robbins.

You don’t copy because you can’t be original, you do because it works. Every competitor of yours has something that works. It is your task to not let them exploit that edge beyond a week.

It’s less about building a me-too company and more about Kaizen (the practice of constant 1% improvement.)

If something works somewhere else, why hesitate in copying? Borrow ideas that work, poach people that are making things happen, model tactics that are hot.

The magic of alignment, synthesis and improvisations make copying powerful. The sum of the copied parts is greater than the whole.

What are you showing up for?

To seek attention or to gain enrolment.

Attention is scarce and people’s BS detectors are sharp. No one can reach everyone. You’ve to constantly find ways to regain attention. And secretly hope it works.

Enrolment takes emotional labor. You have to really care for your smallest viable audience and ship work that is meaningful to them.

Not at scale, not for the masses but for a few in ways that matter.

How to speak so people listen to you?

I have developed and shared these at Bangalore Toastmasters club when members and to-be-speakers ask me for advice to take their speaking game to the next level. Here’s a partial answer. (and when you’re done with this list, feel free to subscribe for my daily riffs. No spam, ever. Promise)

  1. Nobody gives a shit about what you have to say. Find ways to get the audience to enrol.
  2. Start in the middle.
  3. Have circular gestures and avoid chopping hand movements. They are more inviting.
  4. Train yourself to speak in full sentences.
  5. Write like you speak and then speak like you write.
  6. Find an enemy and polarise the audience. Rally them to your side.
  7. Don’t insult the audience by giving out the moral. Tell them the story and trust their intelligence to figure out the lessons.
  8. Quote others only if not quoting them will be detrimental to your speech.
  9. Speak at length and be definitive.
  10. Keep it short and pithy.
  11. Your plug must be more interesting than your speech.
  12. Re-direct them to your previous work.
  13. If the talk is recorded offer as many actionable you can.
  14. Prepare the speech for 90% of the time allotted.
  15. Make space in your speech for the muse.
  16. .When you are speaking from a script in your head, then you are not connecting to the audience.
  17. Leave Queen Victoria in Britain. Place local words, phrases, trending hashtags on purpose.
  18. Be relatable by design: Err, Be vulnerable and self-deprecating.
  19. Speak to wow – Actively seek mind-blowing market-data, anecdotes, stories, facts.
  20. Copy and categorise the best stuff you come across.
  21. Brand the little things: Que cards, lapel pins, virtual background.
  22. Pause to emphasise the immediate next word.
  23. Train to Thank your audiences’ responses before you proceed forward.
  24. Wear an unusual accessory. Curiosity pulls a crowd.
  25. The last piece of clothing you wear is noticed first.
  26. Make the last impression a lasting impression.
  27. Technology is your friend. When it fails you, take a deep breath and repeatedly remind yourself: Life is simple, life is easy, life is effortless! Most times, you fix the person and the technology fixes itself.
  28. Don’t be boring.
  29. Skip the smooth transitions. We like multiple tabs, multi-tasking, and think we understand them all.
  30. Invent words.
  31. Use jargons, lesser-known words, foreign words. If what you are saying is of value, they will look it up.
  32. If it can be said using a memo, a presentation please skip the speech and send it to us. We will read it at our convenience.
  33. Bring your energy, enthusiasm and perspective to the stage.
  34. Speak on Sex, Religion and Politics.
  35. Experiment. Toastmasters, Orai, Otter are fantastic laboratories.
  36. Better readers, better listeners, better observers are better speakers.
  37. Be comfortable in silence for 6-seconds.
  38. Prepare to win back the audience from hecklers, unexpected laughter or funny mic scenarios.
  39. The F-word is a lazy way to emphasise a point. There are better ways.
  40. Make the audience move. Change their physical state – Stretch, High-fi’s, activities.
  41. More emotions, Please!
  42. Dramatise, Exxagarate, Extrapolate a little more.
  43. Nervousness = Excitement. It’s a good sign.
  44. Use Mic, always.
  45. Your audience can sense when you are holding back.
  46. Delete the ego-pieces from the script- the ones focused on you. It’s about them period.
  47. Wake us up every 150 seconds! Use humour, stories, activities or a mic-drop.
  48. Design ways to make your reputation precede you.
  49. Speak low and deep for authority. High and loud for selling and monotonously for putting us to sleep.
  50. Speak stuff that people want to listen and share.

The paradox of proximity.

The rain looks beautiful from afar, but get too close and you’ll be drenched!

Over-achievers, industry leaders, celebrated pioneers seem perfect from a distance.

And, as you go closer you notice the obsessive streaks of a Da Vinci, the stinginess of a Buffet, the indifference of a Shakuntala.

But, these extreme facets protect the individual. In other words, the thorns protect the rose.

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