Some talent may be natural, and some may need to be nurtured. World-class talent is usually a combination of both. This is what I learned watching two different performers in two different cities a couple of days apart.
I love watching shows by performers at any level. My favorite is seeing people fully engaged in their passion, no matter what their skill level. They don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be into it and loving what they do. Sometimes I have my speaker’s coaching eye on, and I can’t help it.
I got called out recently for being too focused. I was sitting in the audience totally focused but not necessarily letting my face show enjoyment.
While speaking at a conference recently, I stayed to enjoy the evening’s performer, an Elvis impersonator. I was sitting in the audience in support of “Elvis.” Unbeknownst to me, I was sitting with my arms crossed and a serious look on my face. Yikes! My bad. I was focused. I started whispering to the person who had called me out on it. Something had bothered me, but I wasn’t sure what.
“Elvis” was talented. He had a great voice. He did Elvis’s signature upper lip thing very well and got some laughs doing it. His costumes were first-class. I liked him, but something bothered me. I asked my whistle blower what she thought. As we compared notes, we realized that it was his guitar playing. Not only was he not actually playing his guitar, but he was also faking it poorly. He missed some of his cues completely. We’ve all had bad nights, but he wasn’t looking like he was committed to getting the guitar part right.
Please understand, all-in-all “Elvis” was quite talented, and the audience had fun. I was being critical as my mind works even when I don’t want it to sometimes. It was just one aspect of the performance that stood out to me for the wrong reasons.
Maybe you don’t play the guitar, but when you take the stage, do you consider all of the different aspects of your presentation? Is there any aspect that you need to work on to become world-class? Structure? Content? Stories? Intro? Image? Opening? Closing? Delivery? Call to action? Confidence? All of these aspects are separate, but they work together. (Find out how to improve quickly at Stage Time University.com.)
A couple of days later I heard Mark Schulman present and perform. He is a speaker, performer, and author. He wrote the book called Conquering Life’s Stage Fright and is also a famous as a drummer for Cher, Pink, and Billy Idol.
Mark’s sincerity was amazing. You could tell he believed in what he did and took every moment and aspect of his presentation seriously. He said that when he first came out and played “Feels Like the First Time” for Foreigner, he did something special. Mark actually walked out and connected with the crowd before he got behind the drums. Connecting is important, but Mark said, “I connect with gratitude.”
I love that. It takes connecting to a different level. It may sound trivial, but I see it as very deep. One of my foundational phrases is,
Mark takes this idea a bit deeper. Connecting with gratitude can be felt. That is more than words or a gesture. That’s a mindset.
After playing the drums as part of his presentation, he brought up an audience member and taught her to drum before our eyes. It was memorable.
Mark also said that when he was writing his book about peak performance, he tapped into his experiences and contacts. Whether you like his music or not, Billy Idol is an icon. Mark got advice from Billy who said, “Sing like your life depends on it.” That is a different mindset. If your life depended on it, how would you present? Would you care more about every aspect of your presentation? Would you review your slides and make them better?
Billy went on to say, “Sing like every note matters.” Every note does matter in a song. Every aspect of giving a presentation matters. Every pause and the length of that pause matter, too.
Mark also inspired me by talking about shifting one’s attitude. Now I’ve heard that before, but he gave me a new perspective. He said it is the difference between have and get. He said “I get to” be world-class. He explained, “I have to feels like an effect. I get to feels like a choice.” Well said, Mark!
As they say, “Elvis has left the building.” Once you leave, the perception of you is already formed, and you will be painted that way for those people until you have another opportunity to present to them. I really liked the Elvis impersonator’s lip action and his voice. He was good, but I was wishing he had either taken the guitar playing seriously or had not even brought the guitar out. It wasn’t needed. The fact that it was used and not fully committed to was what stood out.
Thank you, Mark, for being an amazing model for performing and presenting. “Elvis,” sorry I had to use your performance as an example. Every time you and I perform we are putting ourselves out there. You never know who is watching.
Every time you present, some of the people in front of you are facing huge life challenges that you are not aware of. We have an opportunity to influence. The quality of their lives could depend upon your presentation. Though Mark was talking about performing, he affected my life thinking as well.
When you and I take the stage, every aspect of what we do matters. This does not mean we have to be perfect. In fact, just the opposite: Be present and all-in for them. Prepare and present like your life depends on it. Even though it may not, your career does. Some talent may be natural, and some needs to be nurtured. If you speak like your life depends on it, you will find your own path to world-class.
Find out more about Mark Schulman:
Follow Mark @markyplanet