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
This Week’s Video Clip:
Get More Laughs by Next Week is coming…
One of the speeches that came straight from the heart, and which I’ve told quite a few times, was filled with personal stories about trying to bring hope, humour and thoughtfulness at a difficult time.
I spoke of visiting my uncle after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, encountering a clown at Sick Kids Hospital when I was there with my daughter, and also of that same daughter cheering a friend on shopping trip. My audience was with me; they could identify with those feelings. This speech is a keeper.
My other speech I gave Dec. 29th, came also from my heart. A true story how I practiced drinking wine at my school days.
After my first glass, it tasted like more, I opened a bottle drank it, and for no reason, drank the second bottle. The ground started to spin, ,my vision got cloudy and I passed out. Waking up, I found meself at my parents house, who gave me a lecure. For making a fool of myself and causong embarassment to our neighbors. When asking, what happend, they told me, the police brought me home. I answered, how cool, but I didn’t notice. NO wonder, my parents said,the police carried you into our house.
This is part of my speech.
With kindly regards from Herbert Riemer.
I gave a speech about the history of women’s suffrage and started with a word picture of the torture and imprisonment one woman suffered so I could vote. Had to be from the heart because, even though I practiced perfectly, I choked up at the very end when giving the speech. Surprised me! The audience was definitely convinced of my feelings!
Happy New Year, 2010, Darren!
I was recently in Singapore visiting family and friends, and quite a few Toastmasters Clubs in between. I was invited to present a 90-minute Communications Workshop for a local Toastmasters club there at their Open House and I trained on “Speaking to be Understood; Listening to Understand,” to 70 participants, only seven of whom were Toastmasters! I believe it went over well as I received over 85% excellent evaluation! A New Zealander, an Associate Professor whom I was told later, also teaches Communication, came up to me and commented that, “clearly, you’re a very powerful Presenter…”; that was very kind of him I thought! (I had bronchitis when I was presenting the workshop as well!) Thanks for allowing me to share this with you!
Love and Blessings for an exceptionally Blessed 2010!
I was asked to give the opening keynote speech for a Middle School Career Day. It was 7:45 a.m. and all the kids were seated on the cold blacktop of the basketball court (Probably 350 or 400)
I talked about career choices and setting goals. They seemed to be captivated by the fact that I started babysitting, cleaning house, and ironing when I was 10 and had my first legitimate work permit at 12 so I could cut apricots in the dry yards. I included stories about fainting from the sulphur fumes, and creating my own babysitting co-op at 15, dispatching trucks at 16, and so on. As I asked them to consider whether they wanted to work with brains or brawn, inside or outside, dress up or dress down and shared my own experiences, they never moved. (Maybe they were still asleep!)
Before I went on stage, an old teaching colleague of mine asked, “Why did they ask YOU to do this speech.”
When I was finished and the students stood to applaud, he sought me out and said, “Now I know why they asked YOU to do that speech.”
Your “Comic Goes Postal” article was wonderful!! It really struck a chord with me.
Good work and great advice to practice practice practice.
Hi Darren – There are two speeches that stand out for me.
One was about finding my voices – how a timid girl found the true “her” – first of all giving a grade 9 teacher heck for comparing me to my older sister (after he said “you certainly aren’t as artistic as your sister” – I took music the next year!) – I found my individuality voice, finding my mentoring voice and finding my “speeching” voice. It was about discovering the real “me” and encouraging others to find their voices.
My other one was taking the canned Mentoring program from Toastmasters’ Successful Club Series and putting a personal spin on it. I talked about my experiences with having wonderful TM mentors (You are on that list – thank you for that) and what I have gained by being a mentor. I added quotations that have influenced me over the years – that have to do with the subject.
Speaking from the heart is easy when you pick a subject close to your heart.
Thanks Darren for sharing such great insights with us. UR amzing!!!!
Your experience at the post office was meaningful, and the answer promising.
Personally, I am a meat cutter and have to deal with all kinds of customers at the meat counter.
But in the forest of the imaginations,illusions get lost.
One lady ask, why is this beef colour diffrent from the other? My answer: This cow had a diffrent gene, or perhaps sitting too long in the sun.
The most funniest question I experienced with frozen turkeys at the Christmas season.
One lady asked: Can you tell me the diffrent betwenn a male and female turkey. Certainly, I said. Lets go to the freezer and I show you.
As you can see Madam, this turkey has a much bigger chest, which tells me, its a female.To be honest, no one can tell.
Now you wonder, why my head is round? That my thouth can change direction. I honestly believe, explaining reasonable is an unfinished round-trip and makes new customers. With a sense of humor,
and effort, life can become to be more effective.
Hae a smilingg day, and Happy New Year, from Herbert Riemer.
During a visit to a Meditation Center called THE DIVINE in Chalakkudy, India, I learnt the value of FORGIVENESS. I spoke to our Club Members how, after 25 years, I traced my ex-husband who had left us when my son was 11 months old – walked up to him, shook his hand and said,
“In Jesus’ name I forgive you for what you did to us. May God bless you in everything you do!”
I left him with his arm still stretched out in the position I had shaken his hand, his mouth wide open in amazement.
Darren, I walked out – no I felt that I was floating ! That huuuuuge big rock that was tied to my heart fell off, shedding the iron chains that bound it !!
Forgiveness is the greatest tool Christianity can offer : “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!”
I remember the impact this speech made on our members.