7 Drunken, Dire Warnings for Karaoke That Also Apply To Webinars, Workshops, and Keynote Speeches

Karaoke tips for webinars, workshops and keynote speechesRaise your hand if you’ve ever been to karaoke.

Now raise your hand if you’ve ever cringed at karaoke.

Finally, raise your hand if you’ve ever wanted to charge the stage and physically shake the performer, screaming, “For the love of God, it doesn’t have to be this ****ing painful!”

(Perhaps the last one is just me.)

I was recently at karaoke with someone who has never been before. I was doing my best impression of Tiger Woods’ father – drunkenly running my mouth off with instructions, best practices, and dire warnings.

For some reason, instead of rolling his eyes and storming off, he said, “You know, those sound like good webinar tips.”

Indeed they do.

Therefore, I give you The 7 Drunken, Dire Warnings.

1. Fast pace. Always. No matter what.

If you remember nothing else, remember this. People will take a terrible Stacy’s Mom over a beautiful Wind Beneath My Wings any day.

When giving your speech or your webinar, ideally you will spend an appropriate, balanced amount of time, explaining each point just enough, but not too much. Since that may be impossible, err on the side of covering points quickly rather than comprehensively. It’s better for them to be confused rather than bored. They can always ask you to clarify later.

2. Give them what they always want (but never get.)

The best karaoke song is something everybody loves but never gets.

If you do not intuitively know what people want to hear – and you probably don’t – there is an easy solution. Watch other performers, over time, and observe what gets the best reactions. Then try to find patterns. 80s songs, say. Or one-hit wonders. Or peppy choruses. Make that your checklist, and you will be the most popular singer of the night.

The best speech topic is something everybody wants but never gets. You can arrive at the answer for this using the same means. Watch other performers over time, observe what gets the best reactions, and find patterns. Easy worksheets, say. Or hilarious self-deprecation. Or unexpectedly funny slides.

See? Same!

3. Nobody gives a **** about that weird crap you like.

Karaoke is a performance, and performances are about the audience. In particular, an audience full of strangers who wouldn’t know you if they woke up in bed beside you. They do not find your quirks hilarious.

I don’t care if Shania Twain’s God Bless The Child is your favorite song in the whole, wide world. Stick with Any Man Of Mine.

Ditto webinars. Talk about normal stuff that normal people want to hear, and ditch the inside jokes, peccadilloes, and crying.

4. Beginnings and endings are the most important parts.

In the first few seconds of a karaoke song, the average audience member is thinking one of two thoughts. One, they’re considering the pros and cons of hitting on the girl at the next table. Two, they’re wondering if they’ve had too much wine.

Same thing with a lot of keynote speeches.

The end can be similar. Any droning on and they’re back to thinking about whether Next Table Girl might be into the weird stuff.

You have a limited amount of time to get and keep attention. Get the action started right away, and end on a bang so nobody’s asking if this will ever end.

5. Know your lyrics. Even the boring bits.

You know that song you really like? The one you always belt out in the car? The one you know you’re totally awesome at?

If you’re like 104% of the general population, when you get up to sing that song at karaoke, you will quickly and coldly realize that you only knew the chorus.

Same with ad-libbing webinars.

Yes, you think you have a lot to say on the whole topic. It’s possible you only have a soundbite, and in webinars, an enthusiastic “NA NA NA NA HEY HEY” will not save you.

If there is ANY chance… AT ALL… that you will lose even a tiny bit of the plot, write down all the words in advance. Yes, that’s a lot of work. That’s because being awesome is sometimes a lot of work. But it’s worth it!

6. Never cut corners on your dry run. Never, ever, ever.

Got all the lyrics? Think you’re good? STOP RIGHT THERE.

There is a difference between reading and vocalizing. Memorizing the lyrics of the Bloodhound Gang’s The Bad Touch is very different from being able to sing them. (Ask me how I know this.)

In karaoke, make sure you can sing all the words. In a webinar or speech, make sure you can say all the words.

Yes, read with your eyes. Also read with your mouth. What looks poetic on your screen can be surprisingly difficult to vocalize.

7. You live and die on energy and enthusiasm.

If you have energy and enthusiasm, nothing else matters. If you don’t, ditto.

You cannot simply feel energetic and enthusiastic. Your energy and enthusiasm must show on your face and in your voice. If my dog would not be slightly unnerved by your demeanor, you need to up your affect.

Practice in front of a mirror, drag your long-suffering best friend into a video chat room, do whatever you need to do – but look alive, and they’ll forgive you pretty much anything.

Yes, even Wind Beneath My Wings.

Find Something Useful and Do It

Find something useful and do itFor SK, who is probably overwhelmed today.

When I was a teenager, Saturdays were for cleaning and housework. Each week it surprised me. I would stumble bleary-eyed into the kitchen, fumble around for coffee. I would ask my mother (who would be fully alert, having woken at some sick, masochistic time like nine) the same question… What can I do? Each week, she gave the same answer:

Find something useful and do it.

To my mind – with raging, undiagnosed ADHD and enough hormones to take out a herd of bison – this was insane. Surely we required a strategy. There was laundry and dishes and vacuuming. Groceries, dusting, extracting 14 towels from my brother’s room.

We were in a holy war with chaos, and THIS was the strategy?

Find something useful and do it?

When my mother has a plan, it’s really not worth arguing. Each week I rebelled against her logic, sometimes out loud and sometimes in my head. Each week, eventually, I stopped fighting, found something useful, and did it.

And each week, it worked. I couldn’t always see it at the time, but it was true.

At the end of the day, it was always better than when we started. And it was better than it would have been if we’d spent an hour paralyzing ourselves with strategy.

Most things do not require a strategy.

I’m a strategist at heart. (Who am I kidding? I’m a strategist everywhere.) I hate tactical thinking. I want a nice, neat plan that extends from now until forever. Ideally, I want to do nothing but strategize until I am certain I have a method that eliminates every bad thing and maximizes every good one.

As tragic as I find it, though, most things do not require a strategy.

Sure, a very few things need one. (Your book launch, for example.)

A number of things could benefit from one. (Your editorial calendar might be easier with a strategy, but it’s not necessary.)

But most things? Most things are actually worse with a strategy, especially if you’re a worrier or an over-thinker.

What order should you clean the rooms of your house? It doesn’t really matter. Sure, if you do your bedroom first, you’ll thank yourself tonight. But honestly? Life is long – you’ll get over it.

What order should you make your phone calls? Well, unless one involves getting your gas turned back on, it really makes no odds.

What order should you tackle your inbox emails? I guess you might want to answer the money ones on the sooner end, but if you plan to get to them all anyway, an hour here or there ain’t the end of the world.

But doesn’t planning save time in execution?

It has been said that every minute of planning saves 10 minutes of execution. (Or something like that.) The quote is attributed to everyone from Brian Tracy to Napoleon. And it has a lot of merit. I have lived a lot of my life by that quote.

But it only works if you don’t get mired in it.

If you actually spend 10 minutes planning, and you actually save yourself 100 minutes doing? That’s fantastic. If that’s you, close this window with my hearty congratulations. You’re awesome.

But for a lot of us, that’s not what happens. We spend 100 minutes planning and by the end are so overwhelmed, exhausted, and probably late for something that we figure we’ll do the doing tomorrow.

Repeat for three decades. This is no way to live.

So if you find yourself in a boat like this today, I want to make a friendly recommendation. If it’s helpful, take it. If it’s not, ignore it.

Consider making a small sign that says Find something useful and do it.

Put it where you stress out the most. (If you’re like me, this means you’ll have to make more than one.)

And see if you can’t get just a little more done because of it.

Just try it, just today.

What Happened When I Gave Up My Phone (Or, The Siren Call of Other Peoples’ Stuff)

Giving up phoneOnce upon a time, I told my partner that I wanted to get rid of my phone.

I wanted to get rid of the text messages and Candy Crush and the constant access to the internet.

I wanted to go back to a space where an internet browser wasn’t always there to indulge my every wondering and wandering, where questioning what movies were playing didn’t mean I instantly reached to find out.

He didn’t love the idea.

“You need it,” he said.

“I need you to have it.”

“It’s so convenient.”

“What if we need Google Maps and my phone is dead?”

“What about your people?”

“You can’t run a company with no phone.”

“What if I have to get in touch with you?”

“Isn’t it nice when I go to the coffee shop and they’re out of your soup and I can text you and ask you what you want instead?”

Fair points, all.

So I kept my phone.

Flash forward to last week.

Last week, we spent a week in the woods with the endlessly hospitable James Chartrand. The reception on my phone was spotty, so I turned it off.

It was a nice week.

We said our goodbyes and I cracked a joke, one of those meaningless jokes that accidentally house painful truths.

“I’ll see you later,” I said. “I’m off to face the music.”

Sometime on the drive home, I realized reception had improved. I could turn my phone back on. I reached into my pocket, pulled it out, and stared at the little airplane icon in the corner.

I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t turn it back on.

I felt sick at the thought.

I told my partner. I told him I didn’t WANT to face the music.

“Well, maybe you should keep it off.” (Maybe the week in the woods had softened him. Highly recommended, by the way.)

So I did. I left it off.

I called my mother when I got home and told her to get in touch with me some other way. I told a couple of key people (and, admittedly, forgot to tell quite a few key people). But I just turned it off and didn’t turn it back on again.

I was telling Jenna about my decision. Apparently she has been talking about this stuff on her blog lately. She references a post by a woman (Dr. Jessica Michaelson) who chronicled her first 48 hours of phonelessness. (She kept the phone part, but ditched all the internet-y stuff.)

Dr. Michaelson talks about withdrawal, body tension, stress. Fidgeting and not knowing what to do with herself. She said, “My brain and body had gotten so used to a predictable pattern of behavior to get a quick hit of satisfaction, that I was in physical discomfort because I wasn’t completing the circuit, I wasn’t resolving the urge for satisfaction.”

Maybe that would have happened to me, too, if I’d done it in my natural environment. But I didn’t feel any stress at all. I felt blissfully, giddily calm. I felt like I was standing under a waterfall and I never wanted to leave. I felt like the lawyer who threw his Blackberry into the ocean and holy hell, did it ever feel good.

It’s funny. In this industry, we’re obsessed with TIME.

We talk about getting off Facebook or Twitter or Instagram because it’s a TIME suck. So we restrict the TIME we spend, but it doesn’t seem to help.

The siren call of other peoples’ stuff still messes with our heads, even when we’re not there.

I thought Jenna said it really well. She writes:

“Although I’ve mostly managed to prevent online activities from interfering with my actual designated writing TIME, I’m aware that having my mind occupied and distracted and busyified with other people’s stuff and other online BS takes away from my clarity of mind and my ability to explore my own ideas, which can interfere with my writing.”

Yeah.

Exactly.

Anyway, if you’ve tried to call me, sorry about that.

And if you’ve ever thought about giving up – Facebook, or text messaging, or Safari, or whatever it is that pulls at you – I just wanted to give one dissenting voice.

I was afraid to give up my stuff because I was afraid it would be hard. I was afraid I would chew my arm off. I was afraid it would be like it was for Jessica at the beginning, and that I wouldn’t be able to hold. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get to the place where “my soft spaciousness didn’t have to be invaded by random consumption of other people’s stuff.”

You might be afraid of that too.

If so, I want to give one dissenting voice. If you’ve ever thought about giving up other peoples’ stuff…

It might be really hard, like it was at first for Jessica. Or it might be really easy, like it was for me.

(Also, if you can get yourself a friend with a cabin in the woods… )

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