Self Confidence

INTRODUCTION

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than knowledge.”

~Charles Darwin

How many people do you know who are absolutely, positively sure of themselves, yet are about as wrong as they could possibly be? Based purely on anecdotal evidence you could come to the conclusion that morons are the most confident in themselves, yet geniuses are often the most doubtful about their abilities.

We don’t have to rely solely on our own experience, however. In 1999 it was demonstrated in laboratory settings by researchers David Dunning and Justin Kruger at Cornell University.

They conducted an experiment where they tested participants’ logistic capacities and found a peculiar result.

The participants in the lowest quarter of the bell curve felt like their results would place them in the top 40% of everyone tested. In reality they had performed worse than 88% of all participants.

Putting this into perspective: That’s like someone being sure a city is 5 hours away when it is really 30 hours distant.

On the other end of the bell curve, the top performers consistently underestimated their performance. The participants who scored in the 10% of everyone tested assumed they had only beaten out 75% of everyone else; not 90% like they had actually done.

That’s why the tendency for idiots to be confident and geniuses to be unsure is now known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

What does this have to do with you?

My bet is, if you are reading a book about how to improve your confidence, you suffer from an abundance of intelligence, not a lack of ability. Your lack of confidence may come from too much smart.

Why’s that?

Idiots aren’t smart enough to realize they shouldn’t be so confident. They lack the ability to accurately gauge their own abilities.

Smart people who could use some more confidence are that way because they lack the ability to accurately gauge others’ abilities as compared to their own.

My Goal

By the end of this post I will show you how to build your confidence by reframing your perspectives, taking simple (yet effective) actions that will boost your gumption, and show you how to keep it going for the long term.  


SECTION 1

REFRAME YOUR VIEWPOINT

WHAT ARE YOU GOOD AT DOING?

You want to be over there in Self Confidence-land but you’re in Self Doubt Place.

In order to get from here to there, you have to start where you are. What do I mean?

No matter how little confidence you have in yourself, I’d bet a million dollars that you are good at something. That’s how confident I am that you have some skill or ability that you can excel at.

Whatever it is that you’re good at, take ownership! Own it! Don’t worry about how silly or worthless someone else might have judged it.

Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Don’t give that person the permission to judge your self worth as lacking.

If you’ve been thinking about it and you still can’t come up with anything, then maybe you should start lessons for something you’ve always wanted to learn.

The point is to realize you are/can be good at something, and you can show yourself that you deserve to be confident as demonstrated by your improving skillsets.

WHAT ARE YOU GOOD AT BEING?

Maybe you are convinced you’re not good at doing something. That’s ok, we can work with that.

Instead of focusing on being good at doing something, let’s look at what you are good at being. Let me ask you this, what good qualities do you have?

Are you a good daydreamer? Are you a great listener? Are you sensitive to other people’s emotional state? Maybe you have a great sense of humor and can find something funny about the worst situations.

Think about it long enough and you can always find something about yourself that is a positive trait.

Take time to recognize that there are traits about yourself that are worth-while and valuable. Focusing on the positive traits will be spending your time and energy in the right place.

HOW TO LIGHT THE DARKNESS

Ever heard the saying, “It is better to light a single candle than curse the darkness?” For every negative thing you tell yourself, you are only cursing the darkness. It gets you nowhere, and only lengthens the time you’re sitting in the dark.

The moment you realize you have positive traits, you are lighting that metaphorical candle of self confidence inside yourself.

Everyone has something about themselves that undermines their confidence. Anything can be a source of insecurity like singing off key, bad skin, bad choices, etc.

Take a moment to think about what insecurities you have and write them down. The intent is to give shape to your vague feelings and give you something solid to work on addressing.

A practice I’ve used in the past is to take that piece of paper with all my negative ideas written on it, and then destroy it.

The symbolic destruction of those limiting beliefs can lead to very real changes in your emotions.

Also, any time you find yourself thinking something negative about yourself, immediately counter it with a couple positive thoughts instead.

Negativity works like weeds in the garden of your mind. If it has been left unchecked for years, they will have tangled the entire garden and will be difficult to remove. Once clear, however, it will be easier to catch the small sprouts of negativity before they have time to put down deep roots. Water the good thoughts, and immediately weed out the bad thoughts. 

PAIN SHARED

Pain shared is pain divided; joy shared is joy multiplied.

Whatever the reasons you have for not feeling confident (I don’t have enough money, I’m not good looking enough, I’m uncoordinated, etc etc) they are all just things you tell yourself. They are simply beliefs that you have created. The good news is, you can change how you believe about yourself by sharing your beliefs and fears with someone you trust.

The more you try to keep your fears to yourself, the more power you give them. The day you can’t talk about something is the day is begins to control your life. In the darkness of your own doubts, your fears have room to grow and take over your mind.

When you share your doubts with someone who cares about your well being, it gives you the benefit of another person’s perspective on whatever belief is holding you back. Their way of looking at it might be just the right thing at the right time to realize whatever it is you believe about yourself may no longer be true.

This process of challenging and sharing your doubts is not a quick fix. It can take time to unlearn all the negative things you’ve been saying about yourself which eventually undermines your self confidence.

Oftentimes, people who are working through negativity find it useful to create a space for the beliefs. It’s ok to be insecure. Accept yourself as you are, and know that you’re good enough.

MEASURING UP

Sometimes you fail and it eats away at our confidence. Good news, you’re not alone. Everyone fails. The only time you actually fail is if you fail to learn the lesson.

That’s why I like to think of my mistakes as opportunities for learning. Whenever I mess up, I get excited because it means I’m about to learn something very important.

If you’re focused on learning from an experience, you can’t spend energy wallowing in self pity about making a mistake. Best thing is to own your mistake, take immediate steps to fix it, and learn the lesson that’s there to be learned.

No matter what kind of failure it is that’s eating away at your confidence, it’s ok. It doesn’t mean you are always going to be that person that made that mistake. That’s why it’s important to learn the lesson; it enables you to make more and more interesting mistakes in the future!

Get playful with your mistakes, and you take away their power to permanently debilitate your confidence.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

One of the fastest ways to undermine your self confidence is to compare yourself to someone else.

You know how it goes. You’re cruising YouTube when you find a video of a child prodigy piano player who has accomplished more by age 5 than you have in your multiple decades on planet Earth.

That sound you just heard was your self confidence balloon popping.

What do we do, knowing there’s always going to be someone better, faster, smarter, or prettier than us?

Realize that the only person you should try to be better than is who you were yesterday. The only way you will build self confidence is to realize you are capable of becoming a better person tomorrow than you were yesterday.


SECTION 2

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

BEING GRACIOUS

While I was still in the process of building my skills as a stage performer, I still lacked an abundance of confidence in my abilities.

Whenever someone would compliment me after the show I would think, “They are just being polite, they probably feel like they have to say that.” In response I would usually say something depreciating like, “Oh, I try, but I could have done better.”

Eventually, I realized that it was not only undermining my own confidence, it was incredibly rude!

Here are nice people who are taking time out of their life, coming to say hi, and then saying nice things about me! They didn’t need to do that. They could have easily walked out the door. But, no, they wanted to compliment me, and then I insult their opinion by essentially saying, “Well, I’m sorry you liked that because it wasn’t very good; it could have been a lot better, so why don’t you work on developing your taste.”

Next time someone compliments you in an appropriate dynamic, simply say “Thank you,” or “It means a lot to me to hear you say that,” and appreciate the fact that someone has taken the time to let you know they value your efforts. Work on actually being able to accept the compliment.

(If someone compliments you on the street without invitation, you don’t owe them anything but pepper spray. You aren’t living your life for their approval!)

CONFIDENT PHYSIOLOGY

If you’re feeling down about your lack of self confidence, there’s a simple technique to fix it: smile.

Smiling is a universal human expression for happiness; when we feel happy, we smile. Interestingly enough, the opposite is true, too; when we smile, we feel happy.

Further, it doesn’t even have to be a genuine smile. Scientists have demonstrated that the simple act of activating the same muscles you use while smiling can improve your disposition.

In 1988 scientists had participants hold pens lengthwise in their teeth which forced their mouths into a smile. Then the participants were asked to rate the humor of various cartoons.

What the researchers found was incredible. The participants who were covertly made to smile found the cartoons to be more enjoyable. The conclusion being you can change your internal emotional state through changing your physical state.

STAND TALL

This is not limited to smiles, however. Research has been done into “power postures.” Certain human postures are universal to the experiences of triumph. Bring to mind the classic victory pose of an olympian who just won gold; both arms extended directly over head with their feet placed wide.

If you want to feel confident, then stand as if you were confident. Assuming this pose basically has your body telling your brain that you are feeling confident enough to stand like this, so the brain better catch up with the emotional side of things. So it does.

Next time you’re in need of a dose of confidence, stand like you are confident, and then you’ll feel it too!

EYE CONTACT

Let’s continue in the vein of confident body language and talk about the power of good eye contact.

When I was a teenager I had trouble looking myself in the eye. I’d look everywhere in a mirror except in my own eyes. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, and I didn’t feel like I could face myself.

Eventually I realized that I needed to be able to face who I am, and I forced myself to look into my own eyes. For an uncomfortably long time.

It quickly became less awkward to make eye contact with myself. Then, that confidence carried over to my interactions with other people, too.

I found that looking into someone else’s eyes shows that you are interested in what they have to say, and is a powerful socializing tool. The ability to look someone in the eye says you are someone to be respected, and is comfortable in your own skin.

If you look everywhere but the eyes of the person you’re talking to, it tells them you are not to be taken seriously. Just like with smiling and posture, eye contact can be something you do to consciously to change how you feel, rather than waiting to feel like making eye contact.

DRESS FOR SUCCESS

Nowhere is it more evident that you can affect your internal state by changing your external state than it is when we look at the clothes you wear.

Researchers Adam and Gallinsky looked into something they called “enclothed cognition,” which is the idea that the clothes we wear will have a demonstrable change in our mental state.

In 2008 they performed several experiments. In one, they had some participants wear a lab coat while others wore street clothes. Their task was to spot items that didn’t belong in groups of objects, like one orange M&M in a group of red M&Ms.

The results?

The participants in lab coats made half as many mistakes as the participants in street clothes!

It gets even better. In another test some people were asked to wear a doctor’s coat. Some participants were asked to wear a painter’s coat. Others simply had a coat in the vicinity and were not told what kind it was.

It was the same coat in all three situations.

Once they were ready, the participants were given simple tasks that evaluated their cognitive abilities. The participants wearing, what they believed were, the doctor’s coat performed better than the other groups.

This has powerful implications!

One of the fastest ways to improve your confidence is to wear something that makes you feel confident!

IMAGINE BEING CONFIDENT

Just like you are able to influence your confidence levels based on the way you are holding your body, you can leverage your imagination to do the same thing.

Visualize yourself being successful in a new skill. Imagine yourself as the most confident person in the world. It might feel silly at first, but the more you do it, the better trained your mind becomes at telling yourself you’re super awesome! And that’s what you need for confidence!

HELP YOURSELF BY HELPING OTHERS

A big component of self confidence is the ability to relate to yourself in a positive way. One of the quickest ways to make a positive difference in your life is to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.

Do something nice for someone you know needs some help. Tip an extra dollar to the person who makes your bagel tomorrow morning. No matter how small, any positive gesture you can do for someone else will show you that you can make a difference in the world. Your effort does make a difference, and you are capable of making something good happen in the world.

That will have you feeling on top of the world in no time!

CREATE A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

~Jim Rohn

Are the people in your life supportive and positive? Or do they continually ridicule and criticise?

Even if it is done under the guise of playfulness, constant negativity from the people in your life will wear down your self confidence.

How about your job? Are you in a line of work you are poorly suited for? If you are constantly finding yourself unable to perform the tasks assigned to you, it will not bolster your confidence.

Figure out what you enjoy doing, and then go do that!

If you are in a situation that you cannot change (like living with parents who are less than helpful) understand that it is a temporary situation, and it will get sooooo much better.

Take effort to create as much positivity and support in your life as you can. This will go a long way to providing an environment of encouragement and confidence.


SECTION 3

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

CONFIDENCE IS A PROCESS

Self confidence is not something that you either have, or you don’t have. Instead, it is constantly in flux, and can either go up or down depending on your attitude and outlook. In a way, confidence is a habit.

If your whole life’s habit has been to be down on yourself, you’re not going to suddenly be Captain Confident in a single moment.

Give yourself permission to work on it, and understand that it will be a life-long process of developing confidence. Remember, only compare yourself against who you were yesterday. When you see the improvement, this will provide you a significant source of encouragement.

BE CONTINUOUSLY GRATEFUL

The simple fact that you’re alive is an incredible marvel.

Given how unlikely it is that either one of us should be on this planet, it’s amazing to me that anyone can lose sight of what an amazing source of wonderment being alive is. But we all do it.

Like I said, before, often times our self confidence is undermined by comparing ourselves to someone else. If, however, you are able to focus on what you are able to be grateful for, you’ll discover you have enough and you are enough.

LEARN SOMETHING NEW

Self confidence improves with competence. If you can improve your skills, you’ll also improve your confidence.

If you focus on the areas that would yield the most improvement you are creating the opportunity for maximum confidence growth. Think of it like this: If you are already really really good at something, you’ll have to work incredibly hard for a marginal improvement.

If you work on something new, you’re usually so bad at it that any improvement will be a drastic improvement. When you see such positive results so quickly, it will help you believe that you really can accomplish your goals, and that’s really what confidence is all about, isn’t it?

MAKE UNCERTAINTY YOUR FRIEND

People who lack self confidence often want to know how something will turn out before it happens. Uncertainty can be a major source of anxiety, and anxiety eats away at confidence.

If you can learn to appreciate uncertainty, you will completely reframe your experience of it. This reminds me of the Zen quote, “Relax, nothing is under control.”

Any sense of control you might have is illusion. You have as much control over the universe as a wave has over the ocean. The sooner you can relax and enjoy the ride, the better.

Once you accept that life is a dynamic process, you can be confident in your ability to meet it as it comes, live your life with integrity, and enjoy the ride while you can.

CONCLUSION

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our journey into understand how to improve your self confidence.

Basically it boils down to the belief that you are a capable person. If you’re not there yet start with small chances and pay attention to the victories. Based on previous success you can try bigger and bigger things. Soon enough, you will have created the belief that you can make positive change in your life, and that’s one of the most powerful beliefs you can have.

There’s a reason I called it “building self confidence” and not “immediately wishing and getting confidence.” It’s a process, so be kind to yourself along the way.

We’re all on the path, and I hope to see you on the road sometime!

Best thoughts,

~Jonathan Pritchard

A Brief History of Magic Consulting

Since the dawn of time, man has struggled to control the dark forces of nature and they’ve often turned to magicians for help. Magicians think about problems in novel ways, and they can often see solutions where others see impossible difficulties.

Remember, impossible is just another day at the office for a magician.

Continue reading “A Brief History of Magic Consulting”

Mentalist As Business Strategy Expert

What Gives You The Edge?

Live performance.

Every show I do is an opportunity to get real-time feedback from real-live people on what works, what doesn’t work, and what I should work on.

Shows are composed of hundreds of experiments. I play with language, timing, positioning, tone of voice, physicality, scripting, lighting, information order, and thousands of details that make the show.

Every reaction (or lack thereof) is it’s own data point, Continue reading “Mentalist As Business Strategy Expert”

Built On Trust

Insider Secrets


No matter what round of funding you’re looking for, there’s something that’s just as important as the facts & figures of your business: the trust between you and your investors.

Medium is the Message

Digital communications are phenomenal. It allows us to connect with anyone anywhere in the world at any time. We can fire off an email at 1am from our hotel room, and then get a reply 20 minutes later from someone suffering from equal parts insomnia & “inbox-itis.”

But, easy done is easy ignored.

Think about it. How likely are you to reply to an email when it’s obviously a form email with the brackets still visible because whoever sent it to you forgot to fill out that part of your profile?

Hello [First Name]! I was look at your [Website] and noticed you’re a trusted thought leader in [Industry].

You can’t click Spam fast enough.

Or, you can’t see the smile on the author’s face when typing out their carefully crafted joke. Without the visual clues, you think they’re serious and come to the conclusion that they’re completely unfit to do business with. Being funny is incredibly difficult in the best circumstances, and nearly impossible in the written form unless you’re an expert.

Beyond Physical

With a simple search you can find thousands of articles on the importance of face-to-face communication if you want to create trustworthy connections.

“It’s body language!” they shout. “Stand tall, shoulders back, and fake it ’til you make it!”

And while body language would help people understand your emails more easily, it’s precisely the fact that body language is so over-played that makes it a drawback.

People are aware of how aware others are of micro facial expressions, body language, handshake firmness/duration, etc but they forget a huge piece of the puzzle: tone of voice.

Say It Like You Mean It

In a 2017 study published in American Psychological Association, researchers found that voice-only communication seems to lead to better understanding of the speaker’s intent than body-language only communication.

Participants who listened to what someone was saying were more successful at reading the emotional content of the message more easily than those who heard nothing, but could see the speaker.

This is a powerful insight into what part of your message carries the most weight. It also goes a long way in supporting the old adage:

It’s not what you say, but how you say it that matters.

Another interesting detail is, it’s harder for someone to fake their tone of voice. We’re incredibly adept at reading voice inflections and evaluating them for trustworthiness.

There’s a cool online test you can take to see what I mean. It looks like it was made in 1994, but don’t let the design (the web’s version of body language) fool you.

Take Away

The next time you’re tempted to fire off an email, consider picking up the phone.

In our overbusy world, a quick phone call can often say much more, much faster(with fewer misunderstandings) than a simple email.

But, when it comes down to it, nothing beats honest-to-goodness old fashioned in person communication.

It’s how we’ve been doing things for hundreds of thousands of years, and it’s becoming a lost art.

That’s why conferences are the perfect opportunity to make new connections.

What could take months over email & phone calls can happen in just a few short minutes chatting in person.

So, if you’re an entrepreneur (or investor) looking to build a business on trust, I would suggest you check out a phenomenal opportunity; it’s a conference in Austin TX coming up on April 26th.

Check it out.

Crypto Investment

ZOMG! IT’S ALL CRASHING!


Cryptocurrencies are having a rough go of it lately, and there’s a lot of fear in the market right now with articles like this springing up everywhere:

But, are they really doomed?

Only if you’re not thinking about them correctly.

Cryptocurrencies aren’t an experiment in non-fiat approaches to money. They’re an incredibly powerful dynamic that hinges on multiple disciplines like the internet, cryptography, powerhouse computing, and more. It can be a complicated subject, but here’s what’s at its heart.

Treat crypto as a trading opportunity, and you’re going to lose everything. Treat crypto as an investment opportunity, and you have everything to gain.

Take the long view. Speculators are losing their shirts as the brand new market finds its legs. Remember, people tend to vastly over-inflate a new technology’s short term capacity, and vastly underestimate its long term possibilities.

Not All About Confidence

Commentators love pointing to the “falling confidence levels” in crypto as a currency, but here’s what they’re not talking about: crypto’s cap isn’t based solely on the market’s confidence in crypto. Its value is also a function of the market’s distrust of traditional fiat.

Crypto and the decentralized approach to transactions are a direct assault on the FED’s continued efforts to deflate the dollar’s value.

Zoom Out

But, before we get bogged down in the “traditional vs. new blood” conversation about fiat vs crypto, let’s take a minute to zoom out and ask:

What is crypto good for, anyways?

Bitcoin was lauded as an ideal currency due to its distributed, trustless, cryptography-backed nature, but with transaction fees (or mining incentives if you prefer) skyrocketing, its viability as a day-to-day option for purchasing small goods has evaporated with them.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.

Function of Money

In the history before money, exchanges were done directly. One thing for another; barter.

Bartering is extremely limited. What if I have something you want, but you don’t have something I want? No trade is possible, and we both lose out.

And, what if I want to move somewhere else? If all my value is stored in actual goods, I could potentially lose everything I own in one fell swoop.

That’s the two purposes of money:

  • Facilitate trade by abstracting goods & services away from what they are to a representation of what they’re worth
  • A store of value

The first money technology was receipts for rice stored in government silos. Then metal coins came along which was a significant advancement in market potential. Now, a single coin could represent massive amounts of actual goods.

Then, along comes paper money, but you have to trust the government who is in charge of printing the money to not print too much of it (otherwise its value goes down due to that pesky supply/demand thing).

Problem with paper currency, however, is its lack of privacy (try moving anything over $10,000. There’s a hell of a lot of paperwork. Why should I have to get permission from Dad to get what’s mine?), tons of fees (every time someone’s involved in a transaction, they get their cut. When completing a payment there are multiple banks, intermediaries, processing houses, etc involved), possibility of false duplicates (forgery, anybody?), and on down the list it goes.

Cryptocurrencies solve all those problems.

At the barter level I have to trust you. On the paper currency level I have to trust the government. On the crypto level I have to trust thousands of years of scientific progress and math.

So, while traditional entities like government benefit from centralized control of fiat currencies, cyptocurrencies offer a bright future & alternative to staying in a rigged game against progress and development.

Buy in for the long haul, and you’re betting on human progress.

It’s a sure thing in my eyes. But don’t just trust me; it’s smart science, too.

In Pursuit of Magic

Would You Know It When You Find It?


For me, there is very little difference between magic and art. To me, the ultimate act of magic is to create something from nothing: It’s like when the stage magician pulls the rabbit from the hat. ~Alan Moore

The rabbit was in the hat the whole time.

Not so magical, now, huh?

There’s a weird thing that happens when someone learns a magic trick, and it happens in an instant. This precise moment can teach us a lot about our businesses, relationships, and life in general.

The Situation

Imagine you’re at a magic show and something happens that really, truly, affects you. It turns your whole world upside down, and you can’t seem to let it go.

You know there’s a trick to it, but you can’t possibly imagine how that could be.

You leave the show, and you’re still thinking of it for days afterward. It’s like a fishhook in your mind that keeps digging in deeper and deeper.

Eventually you decide you’ve had enough, and you’re going to find out how it works even if it kills you.

You drive to one of the few remaining magic shops, and tell your story to the guy behind the counter.

“Yeah, I know exactly what you’re talking about,” he says. “You probably don’t actually want to know how it works. It’s kind of advanced, but if you really want it, I’m not going to say no. It’s in this 5 page pamphlet and it explains everything. That’ll be $200.”

The Decision

It’s a lot of money for a single trick, but considering how big an impact it had on you, $200 is actually kinda cheap to finally know.

“Now, once a secret’s told, the secret is sold. There’s no returning the secret, so there’s no returning your money. Got it?”

You nod and swipe your card. He hands you the pamphlet.

30 seconds later you look up from the pages and say, “It’s just mirrors?”

“It’s just mirrors.”

And then it happens. This peculiar moment. Something snaps:

“That’ll never fool anybody!”


Before you dismiss this scenario as being too far fetched, let me tell you from personal experience, it happened all. the. time.

I worked at a magic shop in Universal Studios for a little over a year. This was before Harry Potter world was built, and we enjoyed a monopoly on the magic business at the park for a glorious year and a half.

People would see a magic trick demonstrated, have their mind blown, buy the trick, and come back later saying this would never fool anybody.

All the time.

They’re fooled so badly that they’re willing to spend good money to learn how it works, so they can do it themselves, and immediately discount the method.

What In The World Is Going On?!

Methods are too simple.

I think it really boils down to that.

When we look at people our industry who have achieved so much, we feel compelled to figure out what it is that they’re doing different. We give everything to know what they know. We go to seminars. We attend workshops. We go on retreats.

And they share their secrets.

Except; there are no secrets. They’re guarding empty vaults.

We keep thinking there has to be something else because the answers are too simple. But, that’s what makes them a genius solution. The answers are so painfully obvious, people ignore them.

When you truly wrap you mind around this little truth, it’ll blow your world apart. It’s often the simplest methods that get the most results. Stop trying to make things too complicated!

In the world of magic it’s almost always string, mirrors, or sleight of hand.

In the world of business it’s almost always great customer service, providing value, and follow-up.

Stop chasing secrets and start practicing your basics, and you’ll be light years ahead of everyone who is chasing the next big secret.

Let them believe in fairytales while you work your magic.

Why Have An MC?

Because your event is too important to leave up to chance.


How hard can it be, really?

Your events are an incredible opportunity to connect your audience with your company’s mission. The people in that room are spending their most precious resource, time, with you, and if you don’t respect that simple fact, attendance for next year’s fundraiser, awards banquet, tradeshow, or conference will plummet.

I get to MC a ton of conferences, which means I get to hear the horror stories from organizers and attendees, both.

At a recent conference I spoke with an attendee who had been at the previous year’s conference when they didn’t have an MC, a less-than-ideal venue, and poor directing. He had some real talk to share with me. He said:

“I’m kind of amazed there was this much turn out, to be honest. Last year was such a disaster, I thought people would avoid it this year.”

I’m in a unique position to hear his thoughts. He would never say that to the organizer. This leads me to the first point:

You May Never Know How Much Negative Press You’re Getting

People rarely take time out of their day to tell you how much they don’t like something.

Honesty is expensive! It can cost you friendships, contracts, and good employees. Nobody knows what being honest will truly cost them, so they will instead keep the peace, and say nice things about the event instead of sharing their real thoughts.

You might think your events are getting along just fine, but you usually don’t have a good idea where it can improve if you just rely on feedback from attendees.

“But we do follow-up surveys to get feedback!” you say, and I hear you. The problem is, few attendees know what it takes to put on a successful event! This leads me to the second point:

Attendees might know what they don’t like, but that doesn’t mean they what would make the conference better!

Think of it this way: I could talk to you for hours about what I don’t like, and at the end of the day you’d still have no clue what I do like. That’s why I wanted to put this list of simple things you can do to make sure your next event is a smash hit.

The all-important piece of the puzzle

Believe it or not, here’s one of the most important things you have to get right with your event: you have to have a great MC!

This is the person who is going to set the tone for the whole conference, and he tells the audience how they should feel about the next speaker based on how the MC treats them.

Too many clients believe anybody can MC an event, so they get “Carl from accounting” to do it because he’s funny. Unfortunately, MCing an event requires some pretty difficult skills to pull off effectively, and Carl is not a professional who spends his time honing his audience management skills. He’s good at being funny around the water cooler.

There’s a big difference between being funny there, and standing in front of 1,000 people & managing their attention effectively!

That’s why I want to share what some of those details are, so you can make the best choice in who helps your fundraiser go off without a hitch.

Be Flexible

A good MC has material they plan to do between speakers so there’s no dead air.

A great MC will be able to add or cut time depending on the situation without the audience ever knowing something is going on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients come up to me 20 seconds before going on that “the computer isn’t loading PowerPoint! Can you keep things going until we have it running?!”

A great MC will be able to go out there, keep the audience engaged, and be ready to seamlessly transition into the next speaker’s introduction when they get the green light from the coordinator. This is absolutely mission-critical.

Without that ability, you have 1,000 people instantly checking their email, texting their friends, or Googling “what to do when I’m bored.”

Know Who You’re Introducing

You don’t have to know everything about the people you’re introducing, but you should know at least something, like how to pronounce their name properly!

Make it a point to chat with them a little before they’re scheduled to go on stage so you can ask them about any books they’ve written, accomplishments they’ve earned, or some kind of detail that shows their human side (do they have pets, have pride in their city, or have a stupid human trick?).

In the first 20 seconds of talking with them, you can get a feel for how buttoned up or relaxed they are. This will give you a lot of insight on how to talk about them when you’re out on stage. It’s a good idea to match the energy of the speaker you’re introducing, so the audience has a smooth transition from you to who you’re handing the (literal or figurative) mic to.

Show & Tell

My pet peeve is when a speaker or performer walks out on stage and says, “How is everybody tonight?!”

I know why they’re doing it. I do. They feel like it’s a way to make the audience feel included. Like they’re part of the whole experience.

The problem is, it’s lazy. It’s not the speaker’s job to poll the audience about their emotional state. It’s the speaker’s job to impact their emotional state for the better!

As the MC, it’s your job to to tell the audience what’s about to happen so they know what to expect, and then (even better) show them how they’re about to have a great time.

Walk out and say, “You guys are going to have a fantastic time tonight! There are some incredible speakers here who are the best at what they do, and you’re not going to see anything like this anywhere else on the planet. You’re going to be glad you decided to be here today, and by the end of it you’re going to know that’s 100% true!”

Telling the audience leaves no room for crickets. That’s what happens when you walk out and ask the audience a question: they may not answer. That’s dead air. That means they’re leaning back. That means they’re not engaged.

That means you’re failing.

So don’t give them the option to help you fail! They will follow your lead. Show & Tell them why they’re about to have a great time, and then (magically) they will have a great time. Avoid setting the dynamic where the audience is responsible for your success. They’re not professional presenters. They don’t know what it takes to look like a million bucks up there, so don’t put your reputation on the line by asking them “how they’re doing.”

Be Prepared

To introduce the speakers. That’s a given. But you also have to be prepared to:

  • Tell the audience where the restrooms are.
  • How long they have until the bar closes.
  • Handle a disaster like a fire. You absolutely must maintain order, and minimize panic. If you panic, they panic.

Can you imagine Carl keeping his cool while on stage and helping save the lives of 1,000 people who need to evacuate the room in an orderly fashion? Or will he crumble under the pressure, and cost people’s lives in the process?

You absolutely must do your prep work to ensure you can handle the situation; whatever the situation might be.

Making Introductions

Ok, it’s go-time. You’re done vamping, and it’s time to announce the next person who is about to walk out on stage. Here’s how to introduce someone.

1. Say their name last

Whatever you’re going to say about the person who is about to walk on stage, never say their name until the end. The entire time you’re outlining all the achievements, the audience will be thinking, “Who are they talking about?!” This maintains their interest, and keeps them from tuning out too early if you say their name first and they think, “I’ve never heard of them, guess I can stop paying attention.”

Instead, make their name the last thing you say, so the audience has a natural cue to know when they’re about to make their entrance.

2. Stay put

You just said the speaker’s name, and gesture towards whichever side of the stage they’re going to enter from. This directs the audience’s attention to the most interesting thing on the stage; the speaker. STAY PUT. DO NOT MOVE.

If you say the speaker’s name, and then start walking off the stage, there are 2 moving things to pay attention to. You don’t want that. You want to smoothly direct the audience’s attention to the speaker and offer absolutely zero distraction to that person.

The speaker should walk up to you, shake your hand, and then wait calmly as you walk off stage. A real pro will thank you for your lovely introduction and acknowledge your effort to fill the time it takes for you to exit the stage.

This way there’s a smooth hand-off. The audience is never confused about where they should look, or who they should pay attention to.

3. Have an Outroduction

When their talk is over, the reverse happens. They stay put, you walk out, shake their hand, and thank them for their time as they walk off the stage.

Know what you’re going to say before you walk out there! Managing the situation after their talk is just as important as setting expectations before their talk.

The Golden Rule

The secret to being an incredible MC is remembering this:

You’re the host, not the star.

That means you realize the show isn’t about how great you are. Instead, you want to act like a gracious host who is helping 1,000 new friends have a great time. This is a different skillset that making it all about you.

You’re hosting the party, and making sure your guests are taken care of. Don’t try to outshine the people who are there to speak.

Conclusion

Keep these basic rules in mind when you’re preparing for your next event, and you’ll be lightyears ahead of everybody else who “just wings it.” The better job you do at making your guests look like a million bucks, the better time the audience will have, which means a more successful conference or fundraiser for everyone.

Let me know how it goes for you!


If you’re planning a conference, fundraiser, or other event in need of an MC, let’s talk! I’d love to help make your event a smash-hit by helping it run smooth as glass. Use my contact form to let me know what you’re planning, and we can go from there!

High Impact Events

The question is, is it positive or negative impact?

Done correctly, any event you plan can help people feel appreciated, lower employee turnover, boost company buy-in, reduce liability, and foster cooperation & communication.

Done incorrectly, however, it can cost you your job.

Here’s a story a client of mine told me about an event of hers going horribly wrong. Here’s what happened:

She wanted something fun & different for the company’s end-of-year awards banquet, and she decided to book an “insult waiter” act. This is an actor or a team that dresses like the waitstaff, but intentionally spill drinks, give people the wrong meal, and all sorts of wacky mayhem.

Then, when the ceremonies start, it’s revealed that they’re actually part of act and the MC’s for the rest of the event.

The problem was, the CEO of the company didn’t know it was all an act. He couldn’t believe how rude and unprofessional the “waitstaff” was being, and he couldn’t stand how poorly they were treating his employees.

Before the gag could be announced though, the CEO decided to give the waiter a piece of his mind. He stood up in front of everyone and yelled at the actor until he was red in the face. The actor tried staying in character which only made the CEO even more angry until he was physically shaking.

It’s understandable, too! This man has given his life to this company, and as a dedicated leader, he’s not going to allow some stranger to disrespect his team.

Just imagine being in everyone’s shoes.

The actor: When do you stay in character? When do you break the show and let everyone in on it?

The CEO: You’ve just yelled at someone in front of your team. Even if it’s at a rude person, it still reflects poorly on you. Even worse when it’s revealed to a prank! You look like (and are!) the butt of a horrible joke!

The Event Planner: You made a choice that made every single person in that room incredibly uncomfortable. Not only that, this event will now live forever in the gossip mill at that company and beyond.

You’re Fired!

They all tried calming down the CEO and told him it was all a joke. Instead of laughing, the CEO fired her on the spot. Everyone was humiliated. Nobody was having a good time.

Sure, the event was unforgettable, but for all the wrong reasons!

Your Event Advisor

Not every event you’re planning will be high-stakes, but there are always pitfalls you have to avoid. That’s why I like to think of myself as an incredibly inexpensive insurance policy against those kinds of disasters.

I guarantee never to resort to political humor, risque material, edgy comedy or anything else that could reflect poorly on anyone. (And this extends off-stage, before & after the performance, too!)

Power of Connection

If you understand how valuable it is to connect with people, help them feel valued, and want to avoid the nearly infinite opportunities to botch it all, then let’s talk. I want to be your safe, dependable, and reliable choice to make your next event unforgettable. . . for all the RIGHT reasons! Sure, I might not be the cheapest act, but I can guarantee it won’t cost you your job!

Let’s Connect

To get a conversation started about how I can help, feel free to message me here, by email at office@likeamindreader.com, or by phone at 702.997.3383