Speaking in front of humans
One line from a young Jim Gaffigan makes pitching and public speaking much, much easier.
“It’s okay, I don’t know who I am either.”
Before he was famous, Jim Gaffigan would use this opening line as he walked out on stage to tepid applause.
Imagine the ease an audience would have felt upon hearing this. The self-deprecation. The self-awareness. The realization that this pale comedian already knows what you’re thinking: that he’s a nobody. He’s ahead of you, but you can be in on the joke with him.
All in nine words.
Back when I performed in an improv group, we knew that if anything weird happened in the room — a funny laugh or a baby crying — or outside — an ambulance siren or a pizza being delivered — (all of these things actually happened), we couldn’t just power through. We had to acknowledge it. It was part of the shared truth of the room at that moment. To ignore it is to feel false. We could not be trusted if we weren’t aware of what everyone in the room was feeling.
But this isn’t just a rule for comedians, improvisers, or stage performers. This is for anyone who talks to other human beings.
Be Open to the Room
I’ve found that whether I’m presenting a prepared speech to a big room, pitching a creative deck to a small group, hosting a board meeting, or even just having (checks notes) a “human conversation of friendship,” it’s always good to BE OPEN TO THE ROOM. Let things permeate your senses. Follow your own agenda lightly. Be open. Let the unexpected divert you if it’s a shared experience.
I think about pitching, the thing that scares most people to death. But everyone pitches, whether for new business or just trying to convince people of something. Is it better to win the room or to complete every single slide of the deck you prepared? The number of times I scrapped a deck in favor of a meandering, but interesting conversation? (INFINITY TIMES) Read the room and feel the truth that everyone knows. It’s better to suffer the embarrassment of stopping the progress of a conversation than to simply power through as if nothing is wrong.
And sometimes all it takes is nine words.
Have you ever experienced this? Acknowledged something about yourself to win over a room? Stopped a meeting to acknowledge something that’s off? Would love to hear about it.
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