Don’t you just feel the tension while waiting on line at the post office this time of year?
The other day I was standing in line at the post office and I heard a customer ask, “Will this get there by Christmas?” The man behind the counter answered, “By THIS Christmas?”
With those three words I smiled and realized that, unknowingly, he “got it.”
There is so much to this story — so many lessons in it.
To me, there’s nothing more heart-warming than seeing people using RMT (Relieve My Tension) with total strangers. That is, seeing stress in others and choosing to do something about it. I believe that doing this at work is the ultimate in customer service. That’s the whole meaning behind the program Get More Laughs By Next Week …to help non-funny people learn how to be funny, quickly.
In the post office scenario, we see the following:
1) WHERE IS THE STRESS? ~
People are stressed and concerned about getting their gifts to their destination before the holiday. The postman notices this and chooses to take an active role in doing something about it. You can, too.
2) THE SET UP ~
Life gives us “set-ups.” Here is a natural “set-up” at a job. Anyone who works retail or customer service has “opportunities” like this. They hear the same question over and over again everyday. With different events or times of year, the same questions will pop up, too. Comedians notice “set-ups” in life by observing what is around them. Listen… and you will hear more.
3) MAKING LIGHT OF ONESELF ~
Of course people want their gifts there by THIS Christmas! The postman is making light of the fact that sometimes the postal service is slow.
4) UNEXPECTED ~
His response was the last thing people expected him to say. It caught them by surprise. However, a woman who was in line for quite a while mentioned that she had heard him use the line on a previous customer. This time, she didn’t laugh. But interestingly enough, she still smiled. She felt his heart was in the right place and still felt good about his attempt to make her laugh. The surprise was gone (important in making it effective), but the intent was still felt. So ask yourself: If a line does not work for you, did you let them in on the surprise too soon?
5) AUDIENCES VARY ~
We learned from the woman in line that he had used that same line several times. He just waits for someone to ask the question, “Will this get there by Christmas?” He will have varying results EVERY TIME. As presenters, we must understand this. Every audience is different. If our goal is to make them laugh, we can’t beat ourselves up if a line doesn’t work the first or second time we try it. Most comedians will try the same joke in three different clubs before they scrap it. You will get different reactions — so ask yourself WHY did it work, or not work? Some people are so caught up in their own issues that they can’t really be “in the moment.” Being in the moment is essential to having a good audience!
6) MY CLOSET ~
My friend from the post office is not recording himself, but he is focusing on that one line over and over. He has a new audience every 5 minutes. Above is a photo of the closet in my home office. These are JUST the videos. I have many more audio recordings, too. I want this picture to remind you of what it took me to get where I am today in my speaking and comedy.
We’ve all heard the story of the person who tells the professional musician, “I’d give my whole life to play like you.” And he responds, “I did.” That person doesn’t get it. There are very few “naturals” at anything. Most people who are the best really are people who worked the hardest. Or as I would say – They are the people who had the most STAGE TIME. If you have heard me speak, then you know that I talk about recording yourself every time. I wouldn’t tell you to do anything that I didn’t do. The bad news? This photo shows what it took me to get where I am! Some of you will not have to work as hard. The good news? I’m living proof that anyone can do this! That means you can, too!
On a related note: Others can see it easier than we can. For example, Theresa, a fellow Toastmaster in Houston, helped me to perfect one of my lines. Theresa inspires me by how diligently she studies presentations.
She has seen my Chump to Champ presentation many times. One day she pulled me aside and told me that one line in my “first time on stage” story was much funnier “when delivered with a puzzled look on your face, and tone in your voice.” It was a brilliant observation! She had seen it both ways and noticed a difference. These are things we can learn ourselves by studying our own recordings. These little tweaks will make a huge difference.
Remember: The postman had that line perfected and working 80% of the time in a matter of a couple days because of the frequency of usage. Perfecting is about doing the same thing over and over and tweaking. It is not about writing a new speech!
After a week, he’ll have it working 85% of the time. Do you work on the same lines and stories over and over again, or do you get bored? To master anything you must look past the boredom and see that hard work makes things look easy. We can learn a lot about humor in everyday life. What have you observed lately?
Please put YOUR COMMENT about this article here on my blog… Will you tell me about the speech you gave that was straight from the heart?
May you find HUMOR & HOPE for the HOLIDAYS!
2001 World Champion of Public Speaking
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