Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How Steve Harvey made me a better Speaker !

                   Steve Harvey...behind the podium... working the room !  

  Years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Steve Harvey while on the road as a stand up comic. I was a young comedian and Steve was already a growing name on the circuit. He gave me some advice that has helped me become a successful comedian,  speaker and an effective business communicator

 He taught me the importance of working the room! Actually he was so bold as to bring me up in the middle of his show and say, “Folks this my friend David Michael and he is a young comedian and I am going to show him how to work the room”.  Then he proceeded to identify members of the audience by asking them their names and commenting on their responses with funny quips while working in his prepared material as well.  At the time, I didn't realize what an incredibly powerful tool this was.  He was able to get his audience to listen and focus before he delivered his message.  Can you imagine how many times you could have used this tool in business meetings? Giving a business presentation is critically important for the presenter.  The primary focus, of course, is for the content of the presentation to be absorbed by the audience. Now I know that statement may seem obvious but so often, in business and in public speaking,  most individuals focus on their performance instead of their target, the audience.

Comedians are constantly engaging their audience and they do that by working the room. It almost never fails!  The success rate is so high that some comedy purists think its cheating. Now when I say cheating, I don't mean in an ethical manner  but rather,  that is so easy that anyone can learn to do it. Some believe that you should be able to go onstage, and solely, on the basis of your delivery, get laughs. That works when you have a receptive audience but as we know in real life that is not always the case.

 In business every presentation looks like the next with very little difference. People are so used to attending business functions with the idea they can get a lot of work done on their phone. When you work the room the audience has to pay attention.  They have to stay on their toes. They don’t want to look stupid or caught off guard if you call on them and they aren't paying attention! Using this technique actually creates excitement and spontaneity.  You will notice that people will focus on you and not on their cell phone. You will have the full attention of your audience and you will be able to deliver your message and have the audience retain it!  As a speaker, you will achieve your ultimate goal to effectively communicate your message to the audience.

When I wrote my book I used a quote by Steve that I thought kind of summed up this technique in typical Steve Harvey fashion. "Comedians walk out, get a feel for the crowd and if it’s not going well, we change directions and if we have to drag your momma into this thing we will, whatever we got to do”.  Enough said!

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