It was by far the most brilliant quote I’d ever heard about an audience. After over two decades of performing, speaking and coaching, it struck me deeply. If you care about your audience outcome, I believe it will make you go hmmm, too.
As you may know, I talk about connecting to your audience a great deal. It is crucial for influence and outcome for them. The side effect is that if their outcome is important to you, the connection should be crucial to you. You may have heard me say, “You must connect before you can educate, entertain or influence.” It is a critical factor that is made of many tiny, seemingly unimportant, elements. This is one reason why I create YouTube Invite videos for the event planners I work with, and make sure every second counts in my video introduction. I also make sure every word counts in my introducer’s intro. This is why I have a different one for every presentation I give. Why? Because it is a crucial part to “set up” your connection. When done properly, it will go a long way to creating a connection between you and your audience before you hit the stage.
No matter what I watch online, on stage, or any movie I see, the teacher’s brain inside my head is always looking for new insights to pass on to you. I honestly watched the documentary Jim & Andy, a Netflix documentary, out of curiosity. The description of the documentary says, “Through the lens of his stunningly immersive performance as Andy Kaufman, Jim Carrey ponders the meaning of life, reality, identity and career.” I love documentaries and was curious about knowing more about Jim and Andy off stage.
What I got was insights I had never even considered. As you may know, Jim started in stand-up comedy. In a part of the interview sequence of the documentary he said that he would ask himself over and over again, “What do they (your audience) want?” Have you asked yourself that? It’s a great question. It’s one that I had never considered. Yes, they want to laugh, they want to enjoy the speech, presentation or performance, but what do they need that really allows that to happen? There is the gold.
Jim says that after asking himself that question again and again, an answer popped up and woke him from a sound sleep. He said, “They want to be free from concern.” Brilliant! Seriously, think about it. They want to know they don’t have to be concerned for the performer, especially in a comedy club. This also relates directly to presentations. The audience can sense your intention and essence. If they are concerned for you, they are not fully present in the enjoyment or education part of it.
When we are up there with self-intentions to be loved, appreciated or validated. They can sense that too! This is why they love confidence, vulnerability and authenticity. This is where that stems from. Wow, this revelation blew me away. That is why authenticity is so influential. That is why vulnerability creates connection. If you are willing to be vulnerable, they don’t have to be concerned about you, they can connect more deeply with you. This is why telling your story well matters. It is why your training, practice and coaching matters. When our audience aren’t concerned for us, they will be more connected.
You may have been a victim of one of my favorite audience questions, “Raise your hand if you want to look good on stage.” Most of the hands go up and I adamantly react and scream, “Let it go! That’s your problem.” We need to not need the audience’s approval in order to have true influence. Ironically that is why many of us wish to become speakers early on. We love self-help because it helped us grow somehow. We seek approval as our top priority early in our career. That is why giving them ‘freedom from concern’ needs to be our goal if we truly wish to help people.
If we are afraid to push the limits and try new things, we are usually going to be too vanilla to stand out from others on stage. If we want to stand out and do something crazy, but are secretly afraid to, it shows. The audience will be concerned for you. That is one thing Jim and Andy did well. They stood out and did things on stage that made our heads cock to the side a bit. Even if what they did on stage was not funny to us, they stood out. Jim said about the audience, “They knew I didn’t care if they liked me.” That can be powerful.
Think about one of the things Jim Carrey said on stage at The Comedy Store, the night after his epiphany, “Good evening ladies and gentleman, how are you this evening? Alright then!” He intentionally did not even take a breath after he asked that question. He didn’t need approval. He was confident and cool, no matter what happened. He said the audience roared because he knew the audience knew that he didn’t care. This is genius insight. He said his new intention was to be, or appear to be the guy on stage who was free from concern. I sincerely hope you see it. It can be a game changer, maybe even a career changer.
Vanilla never inspired anyone. It is never memorable either. When you put your message above the messenger, you become more highly influential. When the audience sees a presenter on stage that has their best interest at heart and does not need approval, amazing things can happen.
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