A long time ago we used to gather and listen to speakers. ‘member?
We used to do this LIVE, sitting side-by-side and sometimes we’d even greet each other with hands (shake) and teeth (smile).
But what I’m remembering is listening to an American speaker a few years ago tell his Canadian audience about how we all could do with a “double-double” – and one with plenty of mustard with fries on the side.
If you’re an American reading this (I hug you tight), you might be slobbering and panting while thinking, “I really could inhale an In-N-Out burger gut bomb right now. I mean, I am living through a global pandemic!”
If you’re a Canadian, you’re probably nauseated with a big ‘ole “Huh?” face: “Why would I add mustard and fries to my Tim Hortons coffee? Sure, it’s a global pandemic right now but come on… eh!”
Building authentic rapport with readers and listeners isn’t easy, which is extremely good news for storytellers.
To be clear, a storyteller is not a puppet master, circus clown or self-absorbed sociopath.
A storyteller is a person who steps into the spotlight and quickly turns that warm light back on the audience so each and every one of us feels included.
Imagine a campfire. A storyteller. And a circle of listeners gathered around the fire.
Each listener (and speaker) is part of the experience because we’re warmed by the same roaring fire while sitting under the same starry sky.
No one is left out because of an In-N-Out burger or Tim Hortons coffee “lost in translation” moment.
Stories naturally appeal to others because narrative shows us we’re more similar than special.
The most obnoxious speakers, whether on stage, at the stoplight or under the sun, are all about “me, me, me” and <take a breath, gulp some water> “what do you think about me, me, me?”
When we write and/or speak in our unique voice while sounding the drums of unity, life gets easier and less stressful.
What does that mean? And more importantly, how do we speak authentically while appealing to people’s higher minds and angels?
We appeal to emotion.
We write with emotion.
And you better believe it, we speak with emotion.
The In-N-Out American burger dude deep down is a lovely man, I am sure.
(Getting paid $25K for blah-blah’ing gibberish for 45 minutes definitely made his day… and mine. I was paid zero. But I’m over it. Really. Double-double pinky swear.)
Where was I? I had a rage blackout for a sec.
We’re all unique, like snowflakes. True. And we’re all united by a range of emotions that influence and shape our thoughts, words and deeds.
If you’re a long-time One-Minute Story tip reader (I love you), you can mouth the words to my favourite mantra about public speaking and public or private writing:
Emotion is the potion, emotion is the potion, emotion is the potion.
What do you want your audience to Feel? What do you want them to Think? What do you want them to Do (or change)?
Start there and let those positive emotions act as beacons and signposts that craft and shape your writing.
Burger Boy blew it not only because he didn’t check his facts (e.g., confirm Canada has the chain In-N-Out before making a joke about its specialty burgers) but because he thought he could connect through a bad joke rather than a real emotion.
Too harsh? Yes, we’ve all told jokes that bombed.
But Burger Boy used a bad joke to introduce a main idea that was delicious, meaty and universal to all: what do we hunger for in life and what do we do when we sleepwalk through lives devoid of nourishment and meaning?
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Now we’re cooking. Want to know what happens next?
And you’re right if you think I’m still rage blacking out about that $25K: to the speaker’s absolute credit, I remember his Big Idea years later.
But I still wish he had delivered such a soulful “meal” authentically, creatively and respectfully rather than in a cheap, cheerless and un-Canadian way.
Know thy audience, always. And always appeal to the emotions in the room.
Our emotions make us as unique as they make us united and universal in our lived experience.
We all want to feel Joy, Peace and Belonging. We all want to look to the future with hope and faith. We all want to feel that our lives have meaning and that our lives and contributions matter.
We all want to feel seen, heard and understood.
When you approach your writing and speaking from a place of being more similar than special to your audience, my goodness. You’ll be the belle or beau of the ball.
People will LOVE you. (Some won’t. Meh!)
And what’s sweet? What people will love and appreciate about you is really them looking into a mirror and seeing themselves.
You’ll help your audience feel less alone while reassuring them on a deep, unspoken level that their private suffering can transform into public victory.
And THAT feeling is better than any American “double-double” burger or Canadian “double-double” coffee.
Maybe even sweeter than $25K.
Happy First Day of Fall, y’all. Here’s to weathering the storms and rainbows of our emotions, especially these days. Chin up, kiddo. We’re almost through.