Last weekend, Bill and I went to see the Doobie Brothers perform in concert. I had some concern when we purchased the tickets that it would be one of those things that were great in the past, but wouldn’t live up to their former glory. That was not the case. In fact they were better than ever. In an interview, guitarist and singer, Tom Johnston said that he thinks they’ve gotten better because they are better prepared. It certainly showed on stage.
I was struck by a couple of significant things about their performance and saw the connections to delivering excellent communication and presentations.
- First of all they were having a great time. Their excitement, joy, and passion were infectious. They said up front that they were going to get everyone rockin’, and they did. They played the songs that we in the audience have loved over the years, got us involved with singing refrains, and it never felt like they were rehashing old material. After nearly 40 years, it was still fresh, energetic, and relevant. And just plain fun!
One of the challenges facing speakers, sales people, and managers who cover the same material over and over is to make sure it doesn’t get stale. It is easy to fall into the trap of autopilot because you’ve delivered the same content many times. If you want your audience to be excited about what you have to say, you have to be excited and engaged. It starts there, always! To stay inspired, focus on the impact you intend to have and how what you have to say makes a difference for the ones you’re speaking to.
- No one stole the show and everyone was a star. This show wasn’t about one personality or performer. Each band members was featured multiple times so the audience got the pleasure of several vocal approaches and musicianship. The focus was on the audience and on each other rather than proving how great they each were as individuals. The byproduct of approaching the performance this way was each of the band members had the opportunity to showcase extraordinary talent.
The willingness to let go of having your presentation be all about you is critical to getting the results you desire. Shifting the focus to what will give the audience the best experience is where the big wins reside.
- Seamless hand off from one member to another. Part of what made the music fresh in this concert is that much of the music was improvisational, in the form of a jam band. While returning to a familiar center, multiple creative segues, crossing musical genres made it interesting, and the transitions were flawless.
Anyone who has co-presented knows how difficult it is to give one person the freedom to show their stuff, while still honoring the primary purpose. The next tricky part is knowing when and how to smoothly hand it over to the next person, to pick up where the other left off. The Doobies were genius at this. This can only happen by being totally present, and surrendering ones ego.
While I went to the concert to be entertained, I appreciated seeing the application of sound presentation techniques to music performance. As with any communication, without the impeccable preparation Tom Johnston spoke of, The Doobie Brothers could have reached the status of others whose best days are behind them.