What I Learned From Penn & Teller

CaptureRecently we caught the Penn & Teller show in Vegas. It was cool to hang with them after the show.

First off I will say I have been a fan for a long time. So when the family and I had the opportunity to catch their show I jumped at the chance.

Because my business revolves around speaking and writing and teaching others how to speak and write, I am always watching how master showman and writers do things. Needless to say when other people go to shows to sit back and enjoy, I go to learn. Later I try to incorporate what I can into my own presentations, etc.

rsz_dsc_0134 The Penn & Teller show was no different. Here then are some of things I learned (or was reminded of) from their show that can be incorporated into any presentation.
  • Genuineness. What struck me about Penn, since he is the mouthpiece of the duo, is he always seems so genuine and transparent. You may not like his views (he is very proud to relate his Libertarian ideologies) or his sometimes over-the-top candor but you always know where he stands. The display of this trait reminded me to always be true to myself. That is, let “you” out when you present. The corollary of this is don’t worry about pleasing everyone – you won’t anyway no matter how good you are on the platform. What I have found is that when you are true to yourself when you present those who love you really love you and your stuff. Those who don’t resonate with you simply go away.

  • A little surprise. One of the things that endeared me to Penn was a subtle little surprise that I think only a very few of us (audience members) caught. That is, for a half hour before the show starts the Jazz group the Mike Jones Duo plays some great Jazz piano numbers. Now the band is set up extreme stage right and is playing without much fanfare as you enter the theater. Between Jazz numbers Mike invites audience members to come up on stage and examine a box and sign a letter both of which are used as props later in the show. The band is composed of Mike Jones the piano player and a bass player. What is so cool, as it turns out, is the bass player is Penn. He’s just sitting there in a pseudo-disguise; funky hat obscuring his eyes and his long hair down and out. He looks like a Jazz musician, not Penn the way we are used to seeing him (dark suit and ponytail). It’s never announced that he is the bass player so thanks to my smart phone I look it up on the Internet. Sure enough it’s Penn playing. He’s quite good too. Turns out back in the day Penn used to play bass with a band at CGGB’s in New York City.

rsz_dsc_0133 In any event, I thought that was quite cool and it was a pleasant surprise for those of us who either knew beforehand or figured it out once we were there. So I was thinking about the surprises I incorporate into my presentations. For example, when I do my Speakers Cruise Free presentation I will throw a beach party at the beginning. That is, I will blow up beach balls and play beach music and when I come out on stage I will ask everyone to get on their feet and hit the balls around with me. Its great fun and infuses the room with fresh energy. I incorporate a few other surprises which I won’t reveal now… you’ll just have to come to one of my live presentations to find out. The question is what surprise(s) can you incorporate into your presentations?
  • Stagecraft. One thing is for sure, Penn and Teller are masters at what they do and they have the stagecraft and patter down so perfectly. So even though they seem very informal in their remarks – EVERYTHING – is said and done to achieve a specific result. This is the hallmark of a master. How do you apply this to your presentations? Focused practice. For example, I do a very popular, very effective webinar called “Publish Your Ebook Today Using Amazon’s Kindle” I have done this presentation dozens and dozens of times and have gotten fairly good at it. Why? Because of focused practice. Focused practice allows you to develop expert stagecraft. So do your presentations over and over. Practice all the time.

  • Love for their fans. This is BIG for me. You can tell that Penn & Teller LOVE their fans. How do I know? Because after every show they come and hang out with their audience members. They’ll chat, sign autographs, take pictures and they stick around (as far as I can tell) until the last fan is gone. That’s cool. And their peeps like it and appreciate it, I know I am one of them. Also, how many other headliners do this? Precious few.

    Another variation of this: My friend Tom Antion goes to speak at a (usually weekend) event and sticks around in the room the WHOLE event. He is accessible and open. Other speakers fly in and out or hang out in their suites. Not Tom, he is there and available. From a sales standpoint Tom swears by this. What are ways to love your audience? Obviously, be accessible. Answer questions. Go the extra mile to help.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from master performers you’ve see? Please share them in the comments below.


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Posted in A Better Life