Whipping The Audience Into A Frenzy Is Your Job, Not The Audience’s


There are two ways to get the response you desire of an audience: earn it or demand that they fake it. The latter is characterized by the badgering of the audience over their insufficient zeal.

I understand you need energy. But why not energize the audience by doing something energizing?

I recently performed in a show emceed by a very nice guy who constantly reminded the audience the urgency of being whipped into a frenzy at all times.  I’m not complaining about the rote “Please give a warm Jacksonville welcome to…” I’m talking about the show business equivalent to North Korea’s forcing its citizens to out-wail one another over the death of Kim Jong Il.

“How you doing, everybody?!?! C’mon, you can do better than that, people! Let me hear you say APCA!” The college students gamely supplied what the emcee was desperately seeking: empty cheering which vanished the moment they were directed their attention to the next bauble.

One of those baubles was me. My approach was not the emcee’s: I believe that if the if the audience has shown up, shut up and given you their full attention then you can’t ask more of them. My job, as an entertainer, is to evoke a certain response and then to shape it, be it laughter, applause or even nervous silence.

By the time I came to the stage the audience had been participating in this showcase/social experiment for several days and were now downright Pavlovian in their response. There might as well have been digital Applause signs flashing on each side of the stage. I had anticipated this (even the most obstinate can’t help learning a thing or two over time) so I knew long before taking the stage that my task was to get this Ticonderoga-class ship to stop on a dime and begin responding more naturally: that is, without prompting.

Audiences are you like you and me, though: if you do a thing worth watching then they will tend to watch it. The key then becomes maintaining their engagement.  My philosophy is that whether you’re a teacher, sword swallower, speaker or comedy juggler, you must strive to be be interesting every moment from beginning to end.  Some things naturally make doing so more difficult (a drunken heckler) while others make it easier (a 4-year old drunken heckler).

Am I nuts? Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Return to www.daviddeeble.com.


Seek Growth, Not Change

Screen Shot 2014-12-25 at 8.12.03 PMSpeakers too mediocre to talk about virtues talk about values; speakers too mediocre to talk about values talk about change.

Presentations about “obstacles to change” are nothing-burgers because “change” as such is neither good nor bad. Becoming a father constitutes change, so does infanticide. Being neither good nor bad, change as such is the seemingly-safe route for the speaker who lacks the courage or qualifications to talk about growth.

Obstacles to growth (be it personal, professional or organizational) is a legitimate topic because growth, unlike change, is a virtue. Speakers tend to avoid talking about growth, however, because it is verifiable, measurable and has an aroma of free-market competitiveness which the corporate world is desperate to avoid.

Change, conversely, has a patina of virtue which affords organizations the opportunity to engage in moral exhibitionism while avoiding a naked exploration of new ways to increase marketshare.

Do you have thoughts about change? Leave them in the comment section below.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or learn more about my corporate presentation here.

The “Change” Nothing-Burger

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That change as such can be good or bad was once so well understood as to be axiomatic. Previous generations, naturally, were no strangers to change. But the notion that change is good in and of itself is an entirely new idea.

It’s also a very lucrative one. I once attended a workshop for speakers which confirmed this. The head of an lecture agency was asked by an aspiring speaker (itself an curious phenomenon) “What topic would you say is hottest among event planners?” The woman from the agency responded with one word, spoken with laconic certitude: “Change“.

President Obama famously centered his election campaign on change and today,  much to his consternation, it remains as popular with voters as ever.

Change, it turns out, is not the mixed-bag our forebears were so ambivalent about. Far from being a mere constant – the more things change the more they stay the same – change has been elevated into a modern virtue. This is taken for granted in the speaking community, where no bill of goods is meant to receive less scrutiny than the importance of overcoming obstacles to change.

Change, we are now made to understand, is a necessary good. Self-styled change agents “show up and shake things up”, enabling us to see “new possibilities”. If change often seems distasteful it is only because, like chastity,  you have not yet been taught to embrace it.

At the heart of this conceit is the belief that change should be embraced everywhere and at all times. Overcoming obstacles to change no longer means shaking free of bad habits but, rather, to slay the Great Enemy – the status quo (a term which has been vilified in service of change myth).

The morality tale spun around change serves as a very useful nothing-burger, allowing talks to be given, books to be written and self-styled experts to be ordained with little or no effort or thought.

When the usefulness of soberly assessing change becomes as widespread as ritually celebrating it, then we’ll really have something to talk about.

Do you have thoughts on change? Leave them in the comment section below.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com.

Worst Introduction Ever

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Entertainers often exchange stories about the worst introductions they’ve ever received. The one I received tonight has to be up there.

The show was an awards banquet for a small group of first responders in Bismarck, North Dakota (paramedics, pilots, etc.) When the last award was handed out, the emcee transitioned to the introduction provided by the agent who booked me.

“Tonight’s entertainer has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Last Comic Standing. He’s also the only performer ever kicked off America’s Got Talent! by merely describing his act.” Laughter. Everything was as it should be.

Just then the banquet manager reminds the emcee from the back of the room that the much-anticipated dessert was now ready just outside the banquet hall.

“Oh, dessert…” the emcee said, obviously flummoxed. “Who wants dessert?” The audience cheered. “Well, if you want dessert, it’s ready.” He then picked up where he left off. “His unnatural act is a whirlwind display off erotic skills and … did I say erotic?” (titters from the audience as they exited). “… exotic skills and laugh-out-loud commentary. Please welcome David Deeble.”

Needless to say getting to the stage was like trying to get on a subway car that everybody else was trying to exit.

After that much was a blur. I vaguely remember pointing out to the few who remained seated that when it comes to cheesecake vs. a comedian, cheesecake always wins.

Do you have introduction horror stories? Share them in the comment section below.

Return to daviDDeeble.com.

Against Corporate-Speak

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Some time ago Forbes published an article titled The Most Annoying, Pretentious and Useless Business Jargon. Its premise is, in the words of management professor Jennifer Chatman at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, that “Jargon masks real meaning.” No kidding!

It also serves to as a barrier to entry. In other words, business jargon is a “Win-Win” (a phrase which should only be used when the Yankees lose a double header).

Here, then, is a short talk – ahem – presentation –  designed to, among other things, help you fail your way success.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to be here. I want to thank you for reaching out to me. I’m very happy to connect with you. 

It is my intention this afternoon to incentivize you and your organization to take things to the next level. Think of the ideas I discuss with you today as a kind of 5-Hour Synergy for any corporate culture which dares to employ them. 

I know first-hand the efficacy of these ideas as I have employed them throughout my career and in my personal life. It is my hope that by opening my kimono that I’ll be able to increase your learnings

This talk is more than just about best practices. It’s about how to think outside the box in order to get leverage. Then, how to leverage that leverage. More importantly, it will teach you to empower others and, more importantly, empower yourself. Your authentic self, of course.

These solutions are as scalable as they are actionable. They will challenge your corporate values which, in any event, are much more fun to talk about than corporate virtues, if any. 

And while I hope that you employ these principles to maximize effectiveness, make no mistake: failure is always a possibility. But don’t fear failure. It is a key component on the path to success. In fact, failure is a form of success. I’ll go further: failure is an end in an of itself.

It can be painful to work hard on a mission-critical project only in the end to be forced to take it offline, but by doing so you reveal core competencies. And your peripheral competencies. And for that matter, your core mediocrities as well. 

If you have any questions there will be some wriggle room at the end of my presentation to take your questions. Remember, there’s no such thing as a silly question, so long as it is sincere. If something doesn’t make sense to you, by all means, let’s talk that. And if you would like to share your own ideas I hope you don’t hesitate loop us all in

So let’s get started, as cutting into the next presenter’s time is plain-bad optics

What are your least-favorite examples of corporate-speak? Leave them in the comment section below.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com.

Three Tips For Emcees

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 9.07.28 AMBeing an emcee isn’t easy. You’re the first one to show up and the last one to leave. You’ve got introductions to familiarize yourself with and must manage the on-again, off-again energy requirements associated with the job.

There are a lot of details that go into doing the job well. Here are three simple things to keep in mind to avoid audience’s lumping you into the “mediocre emcee” category.

Stop telling the audience to “Give it up for _____” after each performer.

Give it up? Really? Why not instruct the audience to “Put out” while you’re at it? The same goes for “Make some noise”. Your audience consists of 21-century adults, not Neanderthals with a metal trash can a mallet. It’s grating enough to hear such instructions at a Toledo comedy club, much less for an audience of professionals.  Simply repeat the performers name and allow her to take her applause.

Don’t divulge a performer’s name until the end of the introduction.

This one is a common mistake among people with little or no experience public speaking:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re very proud to have a very funny entertainer with us this evening. David Deeble has performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and we are happy to have him with us tonight. Please welcome David Deeble”.

Sometimes the emcee, realizing he has prematurely divulged the entertainer’s name, will make matters worse by failing to repeat the performer’s name at the end of the introduction: “Tonight’s entertainer is a wonderful comedian named David Deeble. He has appeared on Last Comic Standing and is a regular at The Magic Castle in Hollywood. So please welcome him.”

How’s that for a fine how do you do? Next time I’d prefer you simply grunt while pointing at me in the back of the room.

Stop cramming all your enthusiasm and energy into the last line of the introduction.

This is an annoying one: the emcee employes a well-modulated speaking voice throughout the program except when it comes to the very last line of each speaker’s introduction, at which point, in an effort to whip the audience into a last-minute frenzy, he gradually raises the volume and intensity of his delivery.

What do you think you’re emceeing, the World Wrestling Federation? We’re grown-ups, for crying out loud. Do you fear we won’t applaud if you introduce each performer in a well-modulated speaking voice?

This fear that you’ll introduce a performer to little or no applause is a widespread and understandable one: some audiences just aren’t engaged for whatever reason. But the answer is not to suddenly shift to the hard-sell. If you’re concerned that the performers won’t get enough energy coming to the stage, simply state from the outset that in order to make the program a success, the audience should kindly give each performer a round of applause and their full attention.

Charm and sincerity go a long way. If it is important to you (and it should be) that the audience pay each performer the respect of their full attention, find a way to convey it at the beginning of the program.

It may help to think of emceeing as being a commercial airline airline pilot. A pilot bolsters passengers’ confidence with his soothing demeanor, not manic faux-energy which normal people find unsettling and off-putting.

Being an exception emcee means covering more details and putting in more hours than anyone else on the bill. Avoiding these three mistakes is a good start.

Do you have a pet peeve about emcees? Share it in the comment section below.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or watch me perform the flaming marshmallow balance of mystery.