Leave Your Blood on the Stage: 8 Strategies to Connecting with Your Audience

Bo EasonBeing on camera can feel a lot like speaking on stage. We tend to have the fear of the “red light” when the camera starts running.  Several months ago I decided to tackle my fear of speaking in public head-on. Who did I go to? Bo Eason; former Safety of the Huston Oilers. To tackle a problem as big as I had, I needed to go to someone with the right type of experience. Isn’t an NFL Safety who you would go to for coaching on stage fright?

Well, after his career in the NFL, Bo developed a successful career of writing and acting. He spent years writing his life out in stage play format. How did he do it? With dedication and discipline. The same discipline he used to catch 1,000 footballs every day – day after day for 20 years. He’s caught millions of footballs. That is intense!

As Bo tells it, he would head down to a local coffee shop and write out his story for 3 hours a day, every day, for over a year. His acting coach Larry Moss saw Bo’s unique story and his unparalleled dedication to the craft and decided to direct his play.

His award-winning play Runt of The Litter, tells his moving story of how as a 9-year-old child he wrote out a 20-year plan (in crayon) to one day play in the NFL; and throughout adolescence, his never-ceasing dedication to seeing it become a reality.

I’ve seen Bo perform Runt of the Litter four times now. Bo hits the stage with fire and keeps the intensity going for 90 minutes! Even after over 1,000 performances Bo lives each performance as if it were the first.

What I learned from Bo in about 2 hours of coaching changed my life and my approach on how I speak in front of people. Once you get over the biggest fear that most people have, you begin to wonder what else you can overcome?

So here they are. This is going off the top of my head; no notes.

1. Be totally present. Be there 100% when you have the platform. You owe it to your audience to give them everything you have.

2. Don’t retell the story, relive it. Be there, smell the smells, feel the emotions of the time you are recalling, acknowledge those senses and believe that it is okay to feel them. If it takes you time before going on to get in that state, take that time. Really be back in the story in your mind and your body and the audience will follow.

3. Open up yourself physically. Don’t speak in a comfortable, constricted little box with your hands plastered to your sides. Wave your arms and get as big as you possibly can.

4. Use the whole stage. Don’t stand in the corner or God-forbid, behind a podium. Walk the stage. Strut. At times in his play Bo roams the stage like a lion, ready to devour the audience. The audience has no idea what he’d do next.

5. Leave your blood on the stage. In Bo’s performances, he literally does. He told me to give it everything I have from every part of myself and capture every emotion and have the audience feel what you feel.

6. The more specific you are in telling your story, the more universal it becomes. The interesting details you tell about the people in your story will cause the audience to recall similar people in their life. Talking about how your mom baked bread will remind them of their mom and what she use to do that they loved about her.

7. Being vulnerable makes you stronger. So few of us give it everything we have. Give the extra 20% and finally do as well as you know you can. As Bo says, “The stage belongs heroes.” Vulnerability on stage is the most courageous thing a person can do. Not only that, the degree that you become vulnerable is the degree of trust the audience will give you.

8. Pause and the audience will hold their breath. A pause will re-gather the attention of the audience on you in anticipation of what will happen next. Pause only if you have “earned it.”

Now many people may say that you can’t be this way when speaking in front of people. Are you sure? Have conference promoters told you, “Whatever you do, don’t be who you really are on our stage. Stay behind that podium, move only your lips.” Stop worrying about what people will say about you and be yourself; completely yourself.

If you can’t do it on stage or in a public speaking format, start to live your life out that way. What would your life look like if you opened yourself up, became more vulnerable, were 100% present or gave so much that you “leave your blood on the stage.”

What ever you do, do it to your fullest. Anything less is cheating yourself of who you know you could be and others of being in the presence of the real you.

For more about Bo Eason and his training, go to http://BoEason.com

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