Setting The Stage

I was talking with a fellow music fan named Jason who owns a related business ( about what makes a great concert. We compared lists and they’re very similar. What he didn’t know is I use these same techniques when making a presentation and although people don’t often hold their lighters up in tribute to a speech, I can say it did happen once. Here’s our list and how it applies to public speaking.

1. The experience starts before the band even comes on stage.
For years a Jimmy Buffett concert started in the lot outside of the venue where people created elaborate setups in their parking spaces. The Grateful Dead were famous for having fans follow them around the country on tour and sell their wares to other fans before the show. (Ironically, Buffett fans are Parrot Heads and Jerry Garcia and his group’s followers are Deadheads.) I think about everything the person experiences before I step on the stage so that the crowd is in the right frame of mind. They say you have less than ten seconds to win over an audience, so why not win them over before you even start.

2. The band plays your favorite songs—even though you have heard them before a thousand times, you still want to hear them again.

When something works, don’t try to fix it, work it for all it’s worth. I like it when a band puts a little (live) twist on one of their hit songs. Also, you know how a band will get on stage and the mere mention of the name of the city they are in leads to a loud cheer? (“Hello Detroit!”) If we stick with what works but adapt it to the audience we are more likely to have success than to try and use new and unproven material. Plus, you should be passionate about what you present and that usually doesn’t change, so tap into the topic that makes you excited . . . again and again and again.

3. The venue can make or break a show.
Of course we want to see a big band in a small intimate setting so we can be up close and personal, and we want to see a little-known band make it big and enjoy the energy of a large crowd. How people are seated (or if they have to stand), how easy it is to get foods and drinks (and use the bathroom), and how far they have traveled all factor into the experience. Be the audience. Know “where they are coming from” and adapt accordingly. Use audience interaction to keep them focused and alert, make the best use of the size of the room (big or small), and see what they see (and hear) before you speak by doing a sound check and a seat check.

Lee "rocks" the house with a speech.
Lee “rocks” the house with a speech to a crowd of 1,000+.
Setting The Stage

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