Have you ever gone stale in giving a speech or presentation? Great comedians quite often have to practice the discipline of completely throwing away every joke they have and starting from scratch each year. It takes a lot of work and effort but they do that so they don’t go stale. You may not be a comedian, like I know I am not, but you may have certain subject matters or niches that you speak of on a regular basis for months or decades.
There is the danger of going stale. You may become so bored by it that you simply go through the motions. Here is the fine line test: you may have a story from thirty years ago which still really works with your audience and helps them understand the message and get a better sense of you. Even if you are not that excited about it, it still really helps that audience. In that case, you should still use it. It is as if you go to a Rolling Stones concert and they keep playing new music that they released last year. It may be satisfactory for the members of the band but the audience is probably there to listen to the old classic hits which is not what they are getting. So keep in mind your audience.
What I recommend is to really think about each message or example you give and ask yourself: are you getting tired of it? Is it really essential? Is there a chance you have a better recent case study or story to tell? If so, try to update it as it’ll be better for you and it’ll be better for the audience as well.
How To Reject Reporters
Darlene writes in with the question “TJ, what is the best way to turn down a media interviewer?” This is a question I hear from time to time and it always makes me step back for minute and question some assumptions. My first question for you is, why do you want to turn down an interview? “We don’t want to be associated with the story”.
Well then I have a test for you: is the story going to be written anyway and are you going to be talked about anyway in the story? If the answer is no, there is no real danger and I’ll give you some techniques for it. But if its a negative story about you and you don’t want to be in it, that is a horrible reason for turning down the interview because now, there is more space for the reporter to write negative, nasty things about you or to quote other people saying you’re awful.
So I have never been a fan of turning down interviews asa method of controlling the reporter as it doesn’t actually work.
Going back to the first case scenario, here is what I would do: I would call the reporter instantly and not wait two or three days as reporters hate that. I’d ask to speak to them on background for a moment. I would tell them that I appreciate them for calling but that I would rather prefer not to be part of the story. I would like them to call us in the future any other time. I would let them know that I treat them with respect and professionalism but that I will take a pass this time.
In most cases, the reporter will appreciate and respect that and you will have good relations going forward.
What happens in the real world is that they never call the reporter back at such a situation. News flash: reporters are human beings too. How would you feel if someone doesn’t call you back for days? You would feel rejected and annoyed by that person and nobody likes that.
Secrets from the Audience
Quick public speaking tip of the day: if you want to become a better speaker, next time you’re at a conference, big meeting, or convention, do not look at the speakers. Stare at audience members.
Do not make a big scene about it but if you can somehow stand on the side, you can get a good view of the audience. Look at the audience when they are ignoring the speaker and looking at their cell phones doing whatever. Notice what the speaker is saying at the moment, what he is doing at that moment. And then compare how the audience is reacting to that speak vs other speakers through the day who are perhaps more engaging and interesting.
Yes, you can learn a lot by modeling certain activities after great speakers but you can also learn a lot by studying the audiences because things that make one audience bored and go to their cell phones will probably make other audiences do the same as well. So learn, not just from the speaker, but from their audience too.