Raise 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.
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.