When you get advice from someone who’s a true “master” at their craft, does it make sense to follow it, even if the advice is inconvenient?
One of the most profound bits of advice I got early-on was from one of my comedy mentors, Vinnie Favorito. He told said, “Darren, you must always show up early and watch the whole show. You need to know what everyone in front of you is doing on stage.”
There are several reasons for this. If the presenter (or comedian) before us talks about the same subject, it’s our responsibility to “know” what happens before we go on stage.
It’s also a huge opportunity to set ourselves apart and connect. If we can “tap into” what others said before us, audience members will know that our presentation isn’t ‘canned.’ It separates us from other speakers (especially if you are a competitive speaker). One word of caution… don’t stretch to include something if it’s not a direct tie-in. It must be a sincere connection to what you’re talking about.
If a presenter before me has a profound thought, or a funny line that audience loves, it becomes an “emotionally charged” line or phrase. I always look to see if there is a way for me to “tap into” the emotion… something that’s only good that day, with that audience. Being in that moment with them is what makes it so special. When we can tap into an emotionally charged phrase, it allows us to create a quick and powerful connection with the audience.
I believe in this so much that I’ve changed my travel plans to go to arrive at a Washington DC convention a day early. Ed Tate is doing the opening keynote, and I’m scheduled to speak the next day. Although I have to leave our EDGE Summit early (and still not get to DC ’til 1 am), I’m going to do it. Ed’s keynote is the only general session that will be seen by the entire audience. Hence, it is the only “speaker” they will all have in common before I take the stage. It is definitely worth it!
Here’s an example from this past Saturday: People are always asking me if I still do stand-up comedy. The answer over the past year has been “nope.” Well, that changed this past weekend. I was offered a guest spot at the LA Comedy Club in Las Vegas on the Strip. I couldn’t turn down the “stage time.”
I was nervous, because that is a very different world from what I’m now used to. I took Vinnie’s advice and watched intently the first comic to take the stage. He did a series of “bald” jokes that worked very well. (If the jokes had bombed, I would’ve taken a different approach.)
I had laughs within seconds of taking the stage by tying into that concept. You should look at everything that happens on the stage before you as a “set up” for what you’re going to do. If you would like to see the video clip of that night just click here.
Want to connect fast? Will you show up early, watch the other speakers and see if you can “emotionally” tap into their good moments? Take Vinnie’s advice!
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© Darren LaCroix
2001 World Champion of Public Speaking