Have you ever been on stage and looked out in the audience to see a woman in the second row grinning from ear-to-ear, wrapped in attention?
Then you look over to the left and three rows behind her, you see a man with his arms crossed, wearing a face of stone. It gets worse! You look over a few minutes later, and you see him rolling his eyes during your powerful points!
Who do you spend your time focusing on?
I remember seeing this all the time in my early stand-up comedy days, as well as when I was a new speaker. It still happens to me, but there’s a big difference in how I handle it now.
I’m not sure why we do it — but if you’re anything like me, you probably find yourself gravitating towards Mr. Stoneface. For some reason, we have this urge to “win him over.” We have a natural tendency to believe that we must “get him.”
We are 100% wrong.
It’s funny… because more often than not, those are the people who come up to us afterward and say it was the funniest speech they’d ever heard. Really? Why didn’t you tell your face?!?
The truth is, Mr. Stoneface may have been loving your presentation — but perhaps he just grew up in an environment where he learned not to express his feelings. Perhaps his spouse had just walked out on him and he decided to come to a seminar to get himself out of the house. Or, perhaps the reason was even worse than this.
We don’t know what’s happening in the lives of our audience. Thank goodness! That could really mess us up!
Here’s the problem. We allow Mr. Stoneface to “affect” our presentation and performance through our focus. When we focus on the people that suck energy out of us, we get drained. That does not serve us, or the rest of the audience.
We need to remember to “invest” our focus time on Ms. Happy in the second row. Giving her more attention will feed us, and our performance. The more energy we get from her, the more we can give to the rest of the individuals in our audience.
Who will you focus on?
2001 World Champion of Public Speaking
This Week’s Video Clip:
Brian Tracy sent me a personal video.
He remembered me from when I started speaking!
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Introducing a new section in Stage Time:
• • • • ASK DARREN • • • •
I get questions all the time, so I thought you might have similar questions.
“Darren, why should all professional speakers
become members of Toastmasters?”
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I used to know a family that sang together–a mom, a dad, and a daughter. I remember the daughter telling me that she always looked for a friendly, smiling face out in the audience. If she knew a friend would be coming to the performance, she tried to find out in advance where they were sitting so she could focus on them. I have taken her advice to heart. It really helps!
I also wanted to say “Amen” to your pitch for Toastmasters. I gave a keynote address last Friday night and was able to try “chunks” of the speech out, in advance, at my Toastmaster club. One story dealt with buying some landscaping plants. My husband had told me to be careful how much I spent–but when I got there, I found two fruit trees that I knew he would love, but they cost five times as much as the baby trees that would take an additional five years to produce fruit. Two things came out of field testing the story: 1) Several people asked, “What did he say when you got home?” That told me that I really couldn’t leave that question unanswered when I told the story. 2) One person gave me a dynamite punch line which I wound up using when I spoke. Is Toastmasters worth joining? You betcha’!
It was the spring 2008 District convention at the Friday evening entertainment. I gave a shortened version of my “Folder or Wadder” speech. There was pretty good laughter, but the guy that was sitting at the table directly in front of me sat there shaking his head back and forth for most of the speech. Of course my eyes kept coming back to him.
I knew coming in that everyone wouldn’t find it all that humorous. Most people that I tried it out on found it funny, when I practiced it in front of my parents they didn’t laugh once. Maybe it’s a genertional thing.
Herbert Riemer says:
November 8, 2009.
When a happy face is seen, iet just helps you to spread more happiness around.
A stoneface ate too many lemons. He would Krazy Glue an octopus together.
No wonder, he’s the poster boy for snakebite.
Remember! Life is not a dress rehearsal, but humor is and will multiply.
Humor is like having two rabits. You try to handle them the right way, and suddenly, you got a dozen.
Not only does looking at the stoneface audiences depress us as speakers, but it also makes us try to impress them by all means to a point where we may go out of track or lose our balance.
Therefore, the risk involved in the process of trying to make a stoneface audience happy is always not worthwhile to take.
If you are confident about what you are saying, just proceed as long as not all the audiences have become stonefaced, because if this ever happens, you better find away to finish your speech and their agony at the same time.
I have had several experiences which highlighted this situation.
There have been times when making a presentation I tried the use of eye-contact with my audience and would meet with some unapproving stares coming from a particularly individual in the audience. As I proceeded with my presentation I glance again in the direction of the unfriendly stare and noted a sharing of whispers and laughter coming from a little group seated in the area of the seemingly unapproving member of the audience. This can be rather nerve-racking and unacceptable. I immediately remove my attention from that section of the audience but return my glance for brief moments from time to time.
I have also had the experience where the stares are pleasant, smiling or appearing interested in what is being said. I try to capatilise on these little groups and restore my confidence and boost my ability to continue my presentation to the end. These reactions help me to push myself even more to
become a better speaker everytime I stand at the lectern.
Of course Darren the size of my audiences are never close to the size of those that you address. A toastmasters club is small in terms of your vast audiences, but these experiences have taught me that not everyone is accommodating or accepting, and sometimes people choose these occasions to vent and this is very sad.
Let me take this opp0ortunity to tell you Darren that I am a silent supporter of yours and I always read your messages and grow, no matter how slowly, from your thoughts, presentations, and experiences.
Let me say a big “Thank You”.
You hit the nail on the head! This is such an important point not only for speaking but in life! Once I discovered this my life changed a 180 degrees! For so long I tried to convince the miserable people in my life to get happy. It took a lot of my energy. Today I focus on the smiles and laughter around me. They feed me and in turn support me to smile and laugh at others. This way I can stay centered and in high energy most of the time.
Oh, yes, I can relate. I come from a family of 12 kids. We learned early on (during the days of Laugh-In on TV) to stifle our laughter … 14 people laughing in our little living room made it impossible to hear the next joke! Something has to rock my world to get me to laugh out loud!