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From the desk of Steve Lowell, Master Speaker and Mentor to those who speak in public.

Just Before Show Time

Prepare to Laugh at Yourself

As the former example shows, things are going to happen that make you look foolish, and people are going to laugh at your blunders at times. Therefore, you have two choices. First, you can be offended, and let that destroy your presentation, and second, you can laugh with the audience, and make it part of the show. I recommend the latter.

Many years ago, I was playing music at a pub in rural Quebec. I was the lead guitar player in the band.

Because I was always prone to having bad things happen on the stage, I tried to be prepared as much as I could. Part of the preparedness was to have an extra guitar handy, because I broke guitar strings quite regularly.

It’s always been important to me that the first song an audience hears us perform be an outstanding effort. You only make a first impression once, and I was almost anal about song selection to start off our set. I wanted the audience to hear us, and to love us, in the first ten seconds.

We took to the stage in the pub, which was absolutely packed. Our drummer counted in the first song, and with the strike of the first note, there was a loud “SPWAAAANG” as I broke a guitar string.

I took my guitar off and tried to put it down in order to grab the second guitar. Unfortunately, I was so upset about the opening song being ruined that I slammed the first guitar down into its stand too hard, and the extra force caused the stand to topple backward, where it hit one of the posts that held up our lights.

As the light post began to fall over, I had to grab it and stop it from going down, which made the start of our set even more ridiculous. I could hear the audience howling with laughter as they watched this very angry little man throwing guitars around, then struggling to keep the stage lights from crashing, all in the first ten seconds of the show.

I looked into the audience and saw them laughing, then I looked back at the band members, and saw them laughing too, so I couldn’t help myself from changing my anger to laughter as well. Our show never did recover well that night, not only because of the awkward opening set, but because we were a crappy band to begin with. Nevertheless, once I learned to laugh at myself, life became far easier on the stage. This applies to any type of performance, including speaking.

So, what’s the lesson? Things are going to happen that will throw you off your game. Learn to laugh at yourself; it’ll make your life far more enjoyable.

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