Using “Seinfeld” to hit a home run in communicating

Tuning In

Are you a fan of the classic television show Seinfeld? It was one of the great all-time sitcoms that will live on in reruns our grandchildren will watch. If you don’t believe me, just think of how many generations still watch I Love Lucy, which was the top sitcom from the 1950′s. If you communicate in a way that is entertaining, an audience will listen for as long as you want to talk.

How long do your clients or co-workers listen to you?

Do you hold their attention long enough so they actually listen to what you want them to hear? I hope so, because verbal communication is still the key for successful customer service, teamwork and networking.

In the video conference on communications I taught for a high school last month, I gave the students an in-class assignment. I asked them to list three things that actually happened (truth) during their journey to school, followed by how each experience made them feel. The key to the assignment was that they had to express their feelings (personal thoughts or opinions) using only positive terms.

Then I asked each to tell us about his or her journey (driving, riding a school bus, or walking) to school, combining the three facts and their positive feelings in a way that might make their friends or family laugh. The results were creative and entertaining stories that held everyone’s attention.

All the students could relate since it was an experience they had all shared. After all, none of them had spent the previous night at the school. They all had to travel from somewhere else that morning.

Finding common ground – something your listeners can relate to – is a great method on how to attract and hold someone’s attention long enough for them to hear what you really want to say. It’s a technique that breaks the ice and makes a memorable impression. Once you do that, you’re on the journey toward better and more productive professional and personal relationships.

Truth + Creativity & Humor (Thoughts & Opinions) = Conversations

Too easy?

Does it sound too easy? It is. The secret is to take a positive outlook on a shared event, tap into your personal creativity, (we all have feelings, thoughts and observations), and turn it into a conversational tool. I learned this method from some of the experts at relating to – and conversing with – an audience, which takes us back to Seinfeld

When I was scheduling performers for The Improv Comedy Club in New York City, I worked with the sitcom’s creator and many of the writers. And it wasn’t just at the comedy club located in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, but also as a member of our softball team that competed in the Performing Arts League in Central Park. Since we were sponsored by The Improv, our team was made up of comedians, comedy writers and one talent booker (me!).

One teammate was Ray Romano, who went on to star in Everybody Loves Raymond, but this story involves our first baseman, Larry David. Along with Jerry Seinfeld, Larry created Seinfeld and his own show on HBO, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Fortunately that particular season we won more games than we lost and made the playoffs, which was our first goal. Our second was to win the playoffs and be the funniest champions of the league.

Unfortunately, on the day of our first playoff game, many of the best players, (who were also good comedians), were performing outside of New York City. That meant some of us who were more comfortable sitting on the bench watching would have to play in the field. And others, who were used to a regular position, had to play somewhere else. I was pried from the bench to play second base and our first basement, Larry David, was moved to shortstop.

Baseball fans know shortstop is the most demanding defensive position. The best shortstops are usually smaller and quicker than the other players. It was not the best place for a tall, lanky first baseman and there were a number of balls hit between Larry and myself that added up to more runs for the other team. To put it gently, we lost and were eliminated from the playoffs after one game.

It was not a positive moment since we now had the unwanted task of telling our returning teammates that our season was over. I also remember standing near our bench when Larry threw down his glove and said something to the effect of, “I’m never playing this stupid game again.”

Fast forward a few years…

Headin’ for home!

Seinfeld was the number one show on television. One night I tuned in and saw the character George Costanza, (based on the real life Larry David), running down the third base line during a softball game in Central Park wearing an Improv t-shirt.

My first thought was, “That’s my team!”

After a losing effort, George Costanza threw down his glove and said something to the effect of, “I’m never playing this stupid game again.”

Can you guess my second thought? I played in that game!”

The lesson behind this long dissertation was that Larry had taken a moment that wasn’t very positive at the time, creatively found the humor and made it entertaining. It was a one way conversation with the viewing audience and all he did was tell the truth with creative license.

Anyone who had ever played or watched a softball game, or even experienced the “agony of defeat,” (a quote borrowed from another television show), could relate.

The home team

This and other episodes of Seinfeld based on real experiences that viewers could relate to from Larry, Jerry, and other writing contributors held their audiences’ attention for nine seasons and still continue today in reruns. Talk about making a memorable and lasting impression!

The bottom line is not always what you say, but how you say it.

The best part is you don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to grab your listener’s attention. Find out…

  • What you have in common
  • Take a positive outlook and…
  • Enhance it with personal creativity and humor

It’s a great way to break the ice, start a conversation, and build a relationship with someone you want to do business with.

Go ahead and give it a try. Tell the person next to you about your drive to work today. Use a few facts, be creative, stay positive and tell it in a way you think will make them smile or laugh. Chances are you’ll strike up a conversation – and you never know what doors that may open.

Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below or send an email to dave@davepresents.com

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Build your potential client contact list

Hi Dave – Speaking and comedy both sound like serious business. I’m dead serious about the value of comedy in business — way more serious than folks who don’t know how to laugh. How do I get those humorless folks to seriously see how silly it is to filter out fun from the expressions of ideas? How do I make it pay for me to show them how to make it pay for them? – R.W.

No grumpy people here!

Hey R.W. – Here’s something I’ve noticed about the humorous speaking biz. It seems the people who need us the most – and you know the ones I’m talking about, the humorless people – are the last ones to search us out. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say the event planners that schedule humorous speakers already understand the value of humor in the business world. And like us, they’re just trying to convince the other people who need it most to use it.

Anyone who knows anything about the value of humor in business and everyday life already know the positives. I won’t get into a long list, but here are a few of my favorites:

  • Less stress
  • Better teamwork
  • Increased productivity and attendance
  • Improved networking

These are topics a lot of serious business speakers and trainers already talk about because their audiences deal with these on a daily basis. It sounds like you’re doing the same with humor as a solution. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter if you’re going to work or cleaning your house. You’re more inclined to actually do it if you can include an element of fun.

Okay, all that is just to show I agree with your point – and I’m sure many readers of this newsletter do also (the humorless people don’t subscribe). It is, as you so eloquently put it, silly to filter out fun from the expression of ideas. But as I see it, here’s your main question:

How do I make it pay for me to show them how to make it pay for them?

Your goal is to get this message to the humorless folks and get paid for it. But keep in mind they aren’t going to hire you to speak anymore than they would subscribe to this newsletter. They don’t understand the value of your message. That means you need to…

Networking

Network with event planners (people who can hire you) that already agree with your message.

The best way to do this is to show them what you can do. In other words – get out and speak. And the best places to do this are where both humorous and humorless business folks network – meetings.

I’ve talked about this in past FAQs and Answers and even shared some excellent suggestions from readers on where to showcase your program.

But for a simple instruction guide…

If you don’t have it already, create a short (20 minutes is probably max) presentation about your topic and volunteer (for free) to speak at various organizations in your area. This could include Rotary Clubs, associations, charities, alumni groups, or whatever else you find. If you’re having trouble putting together a working presentation, check out my book Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers at Amazon.com.

Free gigs for humorous speakers are like comedy club showcases for comedians. You don’t get paid, but you get in front of people who can hire (and pay) you in the future. But that’s only the start. As I’ve also mentioned in previous FAQs And Answers you need to build a list of potential clients (buyers) through these free gigs and stay in touch with them.

It’s called networking.

Of course you should always take a stack of business cards to hand out after your presentation. This is a no-brainer and business common sense. Include your contact information and website and give a card to anyone who even looks at you sideways. Make it easy for them to find you.

Except that’s never a guarantee they’ll contact you. It’s important to give them a reason for you to stay in touch on a regular basis, otherwise you’ll just be another pain in the you-know-what.

Start a blog or send out a weekly or monthly newsletter, (hey wait a minute – that’s how I got you to read this!). Make it informative and entertaining as an incentive for potential clients to at least check it out. Hopefully they’ll subscribe and you’ll become almost like an email family member (like we are right now – correct?).

Again, this makes it easy to find you in case they eventually want to hire you.

But simply handing out business cards can take a long time to build a decent list. You know what I mean – you hand out a bazillion cards and be lucky to hear from one or two people.

So here’s how to kick-start your contact list:

The winners!

A great way to building potential clients and continue adding to your contact list is to have a prize drawing whenever you do one of these free programs. It’s up to you what the prize will be. It could be almost anything from a CD or printed transcript of your presentation to a plate of cookies. You could even offer a free or discounted presentation for their company. Use your imagination for this one and offer something you think most of your audience would want.

Here’s a personal example…

At the end of my programs, I announce a drawing to win a free autographed copy of one of my books. It doesn’t matter which book because even if the winner is not into the topic they’ll know someone who is and can give it as a gift. But to be in the drawing, they have to put a business card with an email address into a basket. The trade-off is that everyone who enters will be added to the mailing list to receive my corporate (not this one!) newsletter.

BUT – and this is an important but – I make it clear they can easily unsubscribe through a link in the email. They just need to receive it once. If they like it, they’ll continue to receive it. If not just opt-out and they’ll never hear from me again. And that’s the honest truth.

Everyone who wants to enter puts a business card in the basket. I draw one and that person leaves with a book. I leave the free gig with a basket full of contacts that could possibly turn into paying clients.

So there you go. How do you reach the people who need your message? Get out and preach the gospel – your ideas – in front of people who already get it. Go to where business people and event planners can see and hear you. Use these free gigs to build your contact list.

There are no guarantees they’ll hire you, but at least you’re giving them – and yourself – a chance. You gotta show them what you can do and stay in touch.

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Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a two time Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

 

A memorable 1st impression is easier than taking a bite out of Elvis

How do you make a memorable first impression? I’ll tell you how one aspiring entertainer made sure The King of Rock’n Roll wouldn’t forget him, but before we go to extremes let’s try an easier method…

We live in a fast-paced world. I’ve discussed in past articles how technology has changed the way we receive information. Television and radio commercials have become 20-second blasts of entertainment, often humorous and creative, that grab our attention long enough to deliver the advertiser’s message.

A great first impression should do the same. Today it takes more than a firm handshake and a toothy smile followed by boring small talk such as:

  • “Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”

Your ice-breaker should lay the groundwork for new opportunities. And if you don’t know what to say, then it’s time to stop thinking about the weather and come up with a winning game plan.

Whether you’re looking to move up in your career or move on to a better one, what you say and how you say it can make you the “go to person” and set you apart from the competition. One way is to strike up a conversation by using a hook.

  • So… what is a hook?

The idea is based on the technique shared in a past newsletter (Truth + Creativity & Humor = Conversations). It gives you an opportunity to show your personality, which always counts. And if you have one (I know you do!) there’s no reason why you can’t use it for your benefit.

  • So… what is a hook?

Imagine you’re fishing with an invisible rod and reel. But instead of going for fish, you cast out a conversation starter that grabs the attention of the person you’re meeting. If you make it interesting by referring to a topic they can relate to, it should hook them into continuing the conversation.

I’ll admit I didn’t invent this technique. I’m only sharing it, with a few refinements. During my career as a talent coordinator in Hollywood, I watched some of the best communicators in the world practice this night after night. Their goal, like yours, was to catch and hold the attention of listeners.

These great communicators were stand-up comedians. And their careers depended on having successful, creative and, of course, funny conversations with audiences. Here are a few examples of million-dollar, attention-grabbing comedy hooks:

  • “Did’ya ever notice…” (Jerry Seinfeld)
  • “I don’t get no respect…” (Rodney Dangerfield)
  • “You might be a redneck if…” (Jeff Foxworthy)

Of course these hooks wouldn’t work as well in a professional business setting, but they are attention grabbers and memorable enough to be called famous. And once you hear them, you want to know what the comedian will say next.

  • How do you create a business conversational hook?

It’s simple. Find a topic you know your listener can relate to. For best results, make it something current and you’ve both experienced. Look around your settings and become an observer and commentator. For example, you both might have encountered rush hour traffic driving to your meeting place, or met over a cup of coffee during a needed break.

Borrowing a song introduction that’s been overused by more than a few bad lounge singers, the potential conversation, “Goes a little something like this…”

  • You: “How are you?”
  • Reply: “Fine. How are you?”

And like a bad lounge singer on cruise control, your verbal efforts could hit a dead end because all you can come back with might be…

  • Automatic You: “I’m fine. Thanks.”

Ouch! How often have we heard potential conversations stall because of this automatic (you’ve said it so often that no thought is required or needed) reply? It’s become such an instinctive and common reply that – from many people – it sounds insincere. They’re just saying “words.” It’s not conversation.

And even if you try to change it up with a different, but also overused reply, there’s a good chance boring small talk (yawn) will creep in…

  • Dull You: “I’m fine. Nice weather we’re having.”

That’s a conversation-starter that will single you out from the pack – right?

Wrong!

Instead, this is where you should be creative and hook your listener (Truth + Creativity & Humor = Conversations)…

  • Creative You: “I’m fine. In fact I’m great. This coffee tastes good after that drive this morning. Did you go through the same traffic? I’m positive they have speed limits around here…”

Okay, it’s not comedy club “Ha-Ha” worthy, but then again, we’re not trying to be stand-up comedians. The example was based on topics you could both relate to (driving and/or coffee) and included thoughts and opinions (personality). Chances are your listener will have a reply, allowing the conversation to continue. The goal is to make you remembered, build new connections, strengthen old ones, and improve networking.

If the person you’re talking to bites the hook – you’ll have a conversation that should make you more memorable than someone still dishing out boring small talk (yawn).

And now, speaking of bites, I promised you an extreme example of making a first impression. A newsletter subscriber who works at a very famous medical center emailed the following story. I know she won’t mind if I share it:

I recall a guy talking about meeting Elvis. He was an up and coming singer at the time so to meet Elvis, who was an icon, was very exciting. What he did though was drop down on the floor – grabbed Elvis’ leg and bit him on the ankle. Needless to say Elvis was taken aback and shouted, “What’s wrong with you man?” To which the less known singer said, “Well, if I had just shook your hand that would be it. But now you’ll remember me.” Elvis had to laugh as it was certainly true and this story has survived for 40 years.
It might have worked on Elvis, but for everyone else a creative verbal hook should be enough to (excuse me while I quote another million dollar hook) – “Git-R-Done.”

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Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Corporate comedy open mics

Hey Dave – Last week you talked about ‘what is corporate comedy material.’ I would also like to learn about getting into doing comedy and humorous keynotes at corporate events. – E.M.

Hey E.M. – Okay, let’s pick up where we left off. I talked about the type of material comedians need to develop to get hired as entertainers at corporate events. But how and where do you develop an act for this market? Using material rated G and PG (max!) and jokes relating to the business world don’t always go over with the usual crowd at late night, beer-soaked open mics.

Bar Fight

Not your audience

But that doesn’t matter because they’re not your audience anyway.

The business owners and event planners that would hire you to speak at a corporate function or conference are the networkers you’ll find at morning, afternoon and evening business or association meetings. Instead of late night bars, put your efforts into finding stage time at morning Rotary breakfasts, Knights of Columbus luncheons, and College Club dinners (to mention just three of many possibilities). Almost every city and town has business and social organizations and need speakers or entertainers.

The usual length of your program would be anywhere from five to twenty minutes between the entrée and desert.

The idea is to grab these opportunities and use them like open-mics. And like open-mics, don’t expect any pay. The key word to obtaining these spots is “FREE.” Offer to do a FREE five minutes of CLEAN comedy before the meeting’s featured speaker and it’s very unlikely you’ll hear the other key word that is so frequent in the comedy biz: “NO.”

In my personal experiences using this method in putting together a corporate program, my FREE offer was only turned down once. And it happened with a Rotary guy in the Midwest who was about 90 years old and didn’t think his membership would want to hear from anyone unless they were selling insurance, fertilizer or both. When I explained my talk was about humor and creativity, he sounded like he wanted to have me arrested for being anti-American. I simply thanked him for his time, called a different Rotary Club, mentioned FREE and was invited to speak at their next meeting.

The same program every week.

The same program every week.

As you continue to write and test – successfully – corporate material, move into doing longer sets at these types of meetings. As mentioned above, featured programs usually last about 20 minutes. And again from experience, I’ve found the people who volunteer and are involved in planning can be open to offering a variety of programs. After all, you can’t have insurance, fertilizer or a combo of both every week.

After doing this a number of times and eating a number of FREE breakfasts, lunches and dinners (they always feed you) I had put together a corporate program. The next step was to network and do some promoting – and then I started getting paid bookings. There’s no way this would’ve happened if I had tried to develop the material doing late night open-mic bars.

So if you’re interested in the corporate market, I just gave you a great way to get the ball rolling. And it was FREE advice. When you can make an audience laugh and keep them interested during an early morning breakfast meeting, you’ve got a good chance to break into the corporate market.

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Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below.

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing