Why Breaking "The 4th Wall" Will Make You a More Engaging Speaker

jim gaffigan whisper voice

What Is "The Fourth Wall?" 

The formal definition of The Fourth Wall is a theatrical term for the imaginary “wall” that exists between actors on stage and the audience. 

Obviously, no such wall really exists, but to keep up the illusion of theater, the actors pretend that they cannot hear or see the audience and the audience gets to enjoy the wonderful sensation of being a fly on the wall. The same effect often occurs in movies, only the fourth wall in that instance is a camera lens.

In some of your favorite movies and television shows, actors purposely break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience. This happens in shows like Modern Family and The Office, when they conduct their interviews for the audience.

Another great example is Deadpool -- when Ryan Reynold's snarky humor and profanity is directed toward you about his true feelings in the moment. 

 Image courtesy of Julie Hansen, @acting4sales

Image courtesy of Julie Hansen, @acting4sales

How Does this Apply to Public Speaking? 

When commanding the room, you break the fourth wall by "calling the room." How exactly do you call the room? Acknowledge the obvious in your surroundings... if you notice it, your audience notices it. This will keep everyone there with you in the moment and engaged in the experience. 

 

Watch Jim Break The 4th Wall with His Whisper Voice!

And since we frequently discuss Jim Gaffigan in our workshops, I want to share one of my favorite clips about Jim's addition to cake! Notice what a great job he does both changing perspectives and breaking the 4th wall through the ingenious use of his whisper voice.

Want to learn more about how breaking the fourth wall can help you be a more confident, engaging speaker? Let's chat! 

 

Going Rogue with Denver Startup Week Organizer, John Wilker!

John Wilker

John Wilker knows what it takes to create events that don’t suck. 

He delivers awesome technical conferences for his independent startup 360|Conferences, brought the first Ignite event to Colorado and has helped organize Denver Startup Week practically since its inception. 

Did I mention he’s also author of the Sci-Fi book series Space Rogues? See what happened when Pitch Lab caught up with John Wilker to talk all things Sci-Fi, why old electronics are good for his back and how he got the nickname Chicken Bone!

 

What’s your favorite Dad joke

When the cashier at the grocery store asks me if I want my milk in a bag, I say, “No, just leave it in the carton.”

 

If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning a gold medal for? 

Nacho eating. I’ll destroy you at that. 

 

If you were a hoarder, what would you hoard? 

I like that you used “were.” 

Old electronics. It used to be books but, after a few moves, my back was like, “Hoarding, OVER!”

 

Do you have a nickname?  

The one and only nickname I’ve ever had was because I answered when someone called their dog. The dog’s nickname, Chicken Bone, transferred to me. 

In my defense, I wasn’t really answering to it; I didn’t hear what was said. Still, try to explain that to someone laughing so hard they double over while pointing and saying “Chicken Bone!”

 

What was your favorite TV show and movie growing up? 

TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation.My folks and I always made sure to be home to watch it. Kids today are so lucky with DVRs and Hulu. I used to have to time my pee breaks to fit within three minutes of commercials!

Movie, so many. GooniesContactLabyrinth (“you remind me of the babe”). Most of the early Star Trek, the original three Star Wars (don’t get me started) and of course Fifth Element! Also, Robot Joxis an old guilty pleasure. It’s so horrible.

 

How did you decide to transition from science-fiction fan to author? Was there a specific moment or catalyst that started your journey? 

I’ve always been a writer to a degree. One of my last desk jobs, I used to write an email every week to let people know I’d brought in donuts. The emails were usually short stories, sorta mentioning donuts, but often not. I knew I was on to something when coworkers signed up to get the emails even when they didn’t want an actual donut. 

Space Rogues came about because I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for years but never got very far. When 2016 rolled around, my November was light, so I started and just kept going. Before long, I was half-way through the month and then I was done. (For the record, I finished on the last day around noon, LOL.) 

When I came back to the story a week later — it’s always good to let it sit after you’re done — I liked the story and thought it was worth sharing.

Space Rogues Cover John Wilker

 

For those not familiar, what is Space Rogues
 

Space Rogues is my first self-published novel. It’s your average — though to me, most awesome, ever — science-fiction adventure story. I’ve always loved Sci-Fi like FireflyGuardians of the Galaxy and Farscape, so my writing is very much in that part of the genre: fun and dialogue heavy, lots of witty banter and action. It’s not even remotely hard Sci-Fi, so you’ll never know how FTL works, or how comms can span the galaxy.

 

What’s the one thing you want Sci-Fi fans to know about lead character, Wil Calder? 

For one thing, he (and I) had friends in high school, despite what one mean reviewer said. 😱 Second, he’s my kind of hero. Altruistic to a fault, but honorable in his own way. Kind of Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds rolled up with a little Inigo Montoya mixed in for honor.

 

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? 

One is advice I’ve gotten, and one is my advice: 

One: Don’t read reviews. 

Two: Don’t be impatient. Self-publishing is so easy that it’s easy to make mistakes. I pushed Space Rogues out too early. I hadn’t invested in proper editing and proofreading, and I paid for it. I still do since I gave so many copies away people still randomly show up to write a review about a copy that’s not what’s available on the store now. It kinda sucks since I can’t really fix it, LOL. Make sure you go through the steps before sharing your work with the world. 

For what it’s worth, I'm sure you made Seth Godin proud by publishing too quickly. He says folks sit on their work for too long, paralyzed by the goal of perfection. It takes courage to say “fuck it, ship it.”

Space Rogues Cover Idea Sketch John Wilker

 

You’re a busy guy with 360|Conferences PLUS your work supporting the Denver startup community, yet you still managed to get two Space Rogues books published with a third promised in 2019. How do you find time and stay motivated to write? 

I’d say that I don’t sleep, but that’d be a lie. I love sleeping! Really, I try to keep busy, lest my natural lazy tendency overtake me. Plus, I really hope to improve everything I’m involved in — whether it’s Denver or the iOS or Android community, etc. So that keeps me going. Adding in writing has been a great outlet for me. I try to sneak in a page or two of writing when and wherever I can. 

As far as staying motivated, it’s a struggle to be sure. It’s so easy to just stay indoors and do nothing, but I haven’t gotten to where I want to be in life yet, so I have to keep working on it!

 

Denver Startup Week Logo

What’s your origin story in regards to Denver Startup Week? 

I was at the first meeting that kicked off the entire thing. Lunch at the Wynkoop Tavern. Heady times for sure. When I was approached after the first year — the original committee tried to do it all themselves — I eagerly accepted. 

For one thing, I can’t help but try to give back and make Denver better. Of course I was hopeful that my efforts would lead to opportunities. (Hint, hint universe!)

I’m still involved in much the same way as I was at the start, and I still love it. I’m given a lot of latitude to plan things that I think can make the week better, which is awesome.

 

What’s your most unforgettable experience at Denver Startup Week? 

Oh man, so many. From getting an email that literally just said “Drones!” to having one of my good friends, Eryc Eyl, DJ the opening party in his DJ Saviour Breath costume, and knowing how much “distress” it caused people.

 

Amongst all the speakers you’ve seen at Denver Startup Week over the years, what’s the common trait that makes them great? 

I’d say a willingness to add value. As I go through the submissions for headline/spotlight events, that’s the first thing I look at. Is the speaker trying to add value to the community and the week, or are they simply looking for one more speaking engagement to add to their LinkedIn profile. If the latter, I don’t even give it a second thought. They get rejected. 

“I want to work with people who put the Denver community before their personal fame and fortune.” 

 

When RJ Owen at Pitch Lab first approached you with the idea to be part of Denver Startup Week, what was your initial reaction? 

“I love this!” There are so many venture capital, money, funding and growth talks during the week that I like the headline/spotlight events to be more broad. I’m all about topics that help us be better humans.

 

Why do you think Pitch Lab was so well-received by the Denver startup community? 

Beyond being awesome, I think Pitch Lab was a change of pace. There are always so many similar events, so something that turns pitching on its head is welcome and appreciated. I heard lots of great things about Pitch Lab!

 

Denver Startup Week Crew 18000 Registered

Last year was your biggest attendance on record with 18,900 registered. How do you top that? What can the startup community expect from Denver Startup Week this year? 
 

Well, we’re aiming for over 20K. (Gotta keep those numbers growing!) I know on the headline/spotlight side of things, I’m working on some content to be kind of “DSW 101” on Monday for folks who are new to the week. I feel like the sessions we’re announcing are across the board great and an awesome example of what Denver has to offer the world!

 

Big thanks to John for everything he does to support the Denver startup community! 

Click here to learn more about John and his events that don't suck.

And we'll see you again this year at Denver Startup Week, September 24th - 28th!

5 Tips for Teaching Public Speaking to Your Kids!

Elementary School OI

When Pitch Lab was born we were certain only salespeople and entrepreneurs would attend our workshops. What a surprise to see the room also filled with so many talented marketers, project managers and executives!  

What we learned is most attendees have one thing in common: the fear of public speaking prevents them from helping their clients succeed, getting the promotion they deserve or landing their dream job. 

So when our local elementary school asked for public speaking coaches to volunteer their time, I jumped at the opportunity to give my daughter and her friends an advantage we all wish we had at their age.

And truth be told I've never been great at sports, so I was also stoked to be called “Coach.”

Then came the hard part: figuring out how to translate the techniques we use to help professionals at Pitch Lab to a room full of first graders. How do you simplify the message to resonate with seven-year-olds?

But fear not, teaching public speaking to kids doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are 5 easy ways to give your kids a head start: 

 

1 - Content Is Key

Make sure your kid actually enjoys what he or she is reciting. Don’t put more pressure on what’s actually being said than you have to.

Young kids are naturally going to gravitate towards Lego Batman over Abe Lincoln, so use that to your advantage. Get your kids started by reciting a funny poem from Shel Silverstein, a page out of Hop on Pop or their favorite monologue from Captain Underpants.

And to start out, keep it as short as possible. Comedy Works gives its first-timers two minutes max on New Talent NightTrust me, even those two minutes can feel like an eternity when things don’t go right.

 

2 - Manage Stage Fright from the Start

As a parent, I’m a huge proponent of validating your kids’ feelings. When it comes to stage fright, you need to do the same thing.

Share with your child that it’s not about getting rid of the butterflies in your tummy, it’s about getting the butterflies to fly information

During class, instead of trying to calm down before we went on stage, we stood up tall in our best Wonder Woman/Superman pose and said, “I AM EXCITED!” 

The superhero posture gives your child a subconscious feeling of confidence and also leads to a few laughs to keep it fun.

Furthermore, studies show that reframing public speaking anxiety as excitement leads to feeling more in control, and ultimately a better performance.

 

3 - There’s Power in Dramatic Pause

Most children tend to race through content while performing on stage. Maybe they’re excited. Maybe it’s a strategy to cover up their stage fright. Or maybe it’s simply because they want to get it over with. 

Here’s the punchline. Your child doesn’t talk too fast. He or she just isn’t pausing enough. 

Don’t tell your kid to slow down. Rather, teach her where to pause to allow the listener to catch up and build tension where needed.

Like a graphic designer uses white space, that’s how you need to instruct your child to use dramatic pauses.

 

4 - Over-prepare

When it comes to public speaking, nothing matches the advantage of preparation. Forget coaching your child's body language; keep focused on practice.

The silver bullet for helping your kid is repetition. 

As your child memorizes the content, her delivery will become more authentic and her body language will improve naturally. Start slow and build momentum as you go. 

At school, we practiced weekly in the classrooms, but their homework was to recite their piece two times a day. Every day.

 

5 - Give Lots of Positive Feedback

Never start critiquing right away. In fact, don’t do anything to discourage your child while practicing. 

Say you’re proud of him or her for getting up there, and encourage her to keep going. Your positive feedback is paramount. Build her self-confidence and the rest will fall into place. 

You’re giving your kid a head start on a skill that they will use for the rest of their lives. Is there really anything more to do than applaud? 

Pitch Lab is More Than Just Child’s Play

Our clients are smart people who do amazing work but want help presenting their ideas better. 

Pitch Lab produces custom workshops that break down the comedy techniques the pros use on stage to help your team be more confident, engaging presenters.

Want to learn more about how we can help your team? Let’s chat!

Can I Introduce You to Mrs. Q?

Mrs. Q Pitch Lab

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Philip Worthman, President of Sandler Training Denver, and he asked me, “How’s it going with Pitch Lab?”

“Great!” I said automatically and launched into some of our new clients

But then after a brief pause I admitted, “We're not doing enough to continue the conversation after the workshop ends. A lot of our relationships are one and done. I want to do more to help attendees after our initial session together.” 

“I wonder if you’re not clearly communicating potential next steps.” Phil responded.

Then he asked, “Have you heard of Mrs. Q?”

“No. Who’s that?” I replied.

Then Phil went on to explain Mrs. Q is actually an acronym for a clear call to action at the end of each workshop:

M – If you found Pitch Lab valuable, are you interested in a meeting to discuss how we can work together at your office help your team be more confident, engaging presenters? 

R – Do you have anyone you’d like to refer Pitch Lab to that would benefit from a workshop or private coaching? 

S – Is Pitch Lab a fit for any upcoming speaking engagements? We’d love to hear more about the opportunity.

Q – After you left Pitch Lab and practiced the new techniques, do you have any questions? What can we do to clarify?

 

It’s hard to ask for what we want. 

It requires us to be vulnerable and opens up the possibility of rejection. 

These fears creep into our asks and make us less bold with our requests.

The problem is that when we are unclear about what we want, others can’t get clear either.

How about in your business? Are there more opportunities for you to introduce your clients to a version of Mrs. Q

We'd love to hear from you.

After the meeting with Phil I confess we at Pitch Lab haven’t asked these questions enough. But we need to. 

Is there more we can do together? If so, let’s chat. We’d love to continue the conversation.

Climbing Mt. Cleverest with Ben Kronberg!

Ben Kronberg Last Comic Standing Pitch Lab

Ben and I have been friends for over 12 years now, but I’ve been his fan longer than that.

When you hear Ben’s jokes, it’s obvious his genius comes from the unique way he perceives the world. What makes him truly special though, is how he uses silence to build an almost unbearable tension in the room. Tension that begs to be released by a punchline only Ben can deliver.

If you don’t know him, Ben is a New York based stand-up comedian who headlines all over the world. You’ve probably seen him tell jokes on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Night With Seth Meyers, John Oliver’s NY Stand-Up Show or his very own Half Hour Comedy Special on Comedy Central.

Pitch Lab caught up with Ben to ask him a few questions about his worst experience on stage, how he deals with “butterflies” before a set and why you should join his workshop at The Commons on June 5th.

 

Who is your all-time favorite comedian?

Troy Baxley. A local Denver comedian who was one of the first stand ups I ever saw live. Even though he was never "famous" he made such an important impact on the comedy scene in Denver and whenever I mention his name on the road, people who have seen or heard of him get really excited.

He had such a presence and flow that I could listen to him tell the same jokes over and over and never get tired of watching him work his magic. I conjure him on stage whenever I feel I have nowhere to go.  He gives me strength like a deity in desert. 

 

What’s the worst experience you’ve ever had on stage?

I love the stage cuz it gives me all of the experiences in concentrated form:  confidence, fear, curiosity, regret, happiness, anger...its life. Worst experiences are a value of "I hope this never happens again" but I feel that you have to be open to the worst to experience the best.

If you leave the house anything can happen, and no matter what happens you have to make the best of it.  That said, one time early on I had maraschino cherries thrown at me by an audience member. It stained my favorite thrift store Jacket, but then that stain became a story and a badge of courage.

 Ben Slinging One-Liners On Comedy Central!

Ben Slinging One-Liners On Comedy Central!

What’s the most nervous you’ve ever been in anticipation for a set?

Anytime I go up in Denver I can get nervous. It's where I started and I feel the most potential inescapable judgment there.  

I was also pretty nervous before my Comedy Central Half Hour cuz I was getting paid the most money I've ever been paid for a show. I looked at my hair a lot and shadow boxed backstage...JK.  

 

What’s the website you'd most likely get busted looking at while in the green room?

My ex-girlfriend's Instagram via Google cuz I blocked her after she broke up with me.

 

What would your last meal be?

Lasagna. It makes you tired. I would sleep through the execution. 

 

What is the best piece of comedy advice you've ever been given?

If the joke doesn't work, you're telling it wrong.

 

The first time you coached at Pitch Lab were you surprised how well stand-up comedy techniques translated to presentations in the workplace?

I wasn't surprised cuz the idea is really great and the applications of stand up are self evident in that way.  As soon as you explained the idea I was on board and I am a tough sell when it comes to ideas that aren't mine:) I can't wait to see where Pitch Lab goes.  The potential is endless for this type thing. 

 

Why should folks sign up for your Pitch Lab workshop at the Commons on June 5th?

It's a no-brainier.  No matter what you do professionally you will gain from taking part in Pitch Lab.  No matter what stage of the pitching process you are currently in: beginner to seasoned pitch-er, this workshop will absolutely help move you in the right direction no regardless your end goal.  

8 Hard-Hitting Questions for Pitch Lab Improv Coaches, RJ Owen & Joel Lutz!

 Pitch Lab's Favorite improv comedy coaches: Joel Lutz & RJ Owen

Pitch Lab's Favorite improv comedy coaches: Joel Lutz & RJ Owen

There's no getting around it. We live in an unscripted world. If you mean to make an impression, you have to be able to think on your feet, hurl yourself into the moment and improvise. And like a great improv troupe, successful businesses must rely on similar tools to succeed.

We caught up with Pitch Lab’s own RJ Owen and Joel Lutz to ask them 8 important questions about their origin story, Dad jokes, and why you should sign up for their upcoming improv comedy workshop at General Assembly on June 26th! 

 

How did the two of you meet?

RJ: Joel and I were introduced when a pal of ours started a little breakfast club. We had a lot of similar interests and enjoyed riffing on each other’s jokes in conversation. Later when Jay and I put together the initial concept for Pitch Lab, I knew Joel would bring a lot of expertise from his perspective as an improv coach. It’s been great to collaborate with him.

Joel: What RJ said, except I had to beg him to be included in Pitch Lab.

 

What’s your favorite Dad joke?

RJ: Why did the chicken cross the road?  (Why?)

To get to the ugly guy's house.

????

Knock knock (Who's there?)

It's the chicken!!

 

If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning a gold medal for?

RJ: Lawn mowing. I’ve perfected flipping the mower around as I run across my yard, plus I train at high altitude!

Joel: Telling people why something won’t work. No problem goes unnoticed!

 

What is the next thing on your bucket list?

RJ: I’ve always wanted my bucket list to be achievable so it’s a literal list of buckets. I’ve recently built out my collection of Home Depot orange buckets. The 1997 HD orange is a must-have for any serious bucketeer. I’m hoping to pick up a classic 1930s tin pale at Bucketcon this summer.

Joel:  Paying off school loans... I'm right on track!

 

What is the best piece of comedy advice you’ve ever received?

RJ: “Stop trying to be funny and just listen to me,” (from Joel)

Joel:  You aren’t as good as you think you are.

 

If you were a hoarder, what would you hoard?

RJ: Bucket lists! (see what I did there? in the biz, that's what we call a "callback"

Joel: Better jokes for this interview?

 

How has improv helped you in your career?

RJ: I use improv skills every day. Improv’s focus on collaboration and building on each other’s ideas with principles like “Yes, And” are absolutely essential for getting the most out of anything we do collaboratively, and as a designer a lot of my creative ideas come this way.

Treating our team like an improv ensemble cast - where everyone wins or loses based on the success of the team and not any individual - also helps make our team a healthy place where everyone has a say and brings all of their creative energy to the table.

Lastly, we’re presenting to clients all the time. We use skills similar to improv comedians to connect with our “audience” and adjust our material on the fly to respond to their feedback or reactions.

Joel: Improv has helped reshape almost every part of my life. I have learned that how I react on stage to a suggestion or what another actor is offering, is very similar to how I respond in real life to challenges and obstacles.  

One of the best places I’ve found in life, is when I’m open to new opportunities and in a position to act so that I can capitalize on them in a meaningful way.  I believe improv can be a vehicle to incorporate these values/traits into one’s own life.

 

Why should I sign up for your improv workshop at General Assembly on Tuesday, June 26th? 

RJ: You’re going to learn how to explore new creative ideas and unlock innovation (as buzz-wordy as that sounds) and you’re going to do it through a crazy fun improv workshop. Even really good professional development events are rarely as enjoyable as this one will be - don’t miss it!

Joel: If you sign up RJ will guarantee you a new job, and a Tesla! It’s pretty amazing!

Register now for Pitch Lab: How To Use Improv Comedy As A Tool For Innovation! (sorry, Tesla not included)

 NO CAPTION NECESSARY.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY.

TEDx Speaker Finds His Purpose Through Storytelling

Giuseppe Pizano Changing Sight TEDx

Giuseppe Pizano: From Being Homeless & Living Under the Bleachers to Fighting for Underprivileged Kids Everywhere

We first met Giuseppe Pizano at a Pitch Lab team building workshop for Genesis Contractor Solutions. But that’s not where this story begins.

Abandoned by his mother and left homeless at the age of 14, Giuseppe overcame incredible odds and is now an accomplished speaker and champion for homeless children.

He shares his story in “Changing Sight,” a TEDx he hopes will help people see things differently.

We caught up with Giuseppe to talk about the power of vulnerability, dealing with stage fright and helping homeless youth: 

How nervous were you before your TEDx, and how did you deal with stage fright? 

I was extremely nervous before my TEDx talk, but I dealt with it by listening to other motivational speakers on YouTube to pump me up mentally. Then I did a ton of push-ups right before I went on stage. =)

Tell me a bit about how you prepared for your TEDx “Changing Sight.” How much did you practice leading up to the talk?

I have told my story so many times that I pretty much already knew what I had to say. I didn’t write out an entire script word for word. I wrote specific bullet points on note cards and began rehearsing every day for about 2-3 weeks leading up to the talk.

Giuseppe's backpack TEDx

I love the creative decision to tell parts of your story through your best friend, your backpack. How did you get the idea?

I got the inspiration to speak through the eyes of my backpack from my adopted parents, almost at the last minute, two weeks prior to my talk.

What was the main catalyst for deciding to tell your story in such a public way? Have you always known you were going to help others, or did a specific moment motivate you?

I didn’t know until about my sophomore year in college that I wanted to help others. It wasn’t until I realized how much of a story I had that I began to slowly visit high schools to talk to other underprivileged kids about the things I went through and how I was able to come out of my situation. The feeling I had after one girl came to me and told me that I was an inspiration to her surpassed any sort of gratitude that I had ever felt. It was that gratifying feeling that made me find love in what I was doing. I finally found my purpose.

How has being on stage as both a TEDx speaker and a model helped you most in your role as Business Development Manager at Genesis?

I think both speaking on stage and modeling have helped me in my job with Genesis by giving me a level of confidence and authenticity to talk to almost anyone without being scared or caring about what other people think of me.

How has opening up in such a vulnerable way and telling your amazing story helped you be more authentic at work?

Being vulnerable is often looked at as something negative, but if you know how to use your vulnerability in the right way, it can be the most powerful tool you have. Especially in the sense of being authentic. That’s all anyone wants.

We were thrilled to hear you call Pitch Lab one of the best interactive workshops you’ve ever attended. What made the experience most valuable for you?

I really enjoyed that Pitch Lab was able to make a bunch of our most introverted employees a little more comfortable interacting. It truly turned the workshop into an uplifting session rather than making it into just another meeting of death by PowerPoint.

Giuseppe Pizano TEDx Changing Sight

What’s next in your quest to provide kids with a best friend in their backpacks, and the ability to know that they have a chance in life?

My next step is to get my idea for a backpack that is sturdy yet practical for homeless youth across the country in the right hands to make this a reality. And hopefully being able to talk to hundreds of more people across the country, maybe even the world.

At the end of your talk, you quoted a staggering 1.6M kids living on the street today. What can we do to help right now?

Anyone can help by visiting their nearest homeless youth shelter and volunteering. You will never understand how impactful it is to build a simple relationship with one of these kids. That’s speaking from personal experience.

Pitch Lab's Origin Story!

Pitch Lab B2B Revenue Executive Experience

How to “Own” a Room and Increase Your Presentation Skills

Big thanks to Chad Sanderson for inviting Pitch Lab onto the B2B Revenue Executive Experience Podcast. 

Being at the intersection of sales + comedy helped me see the benefits that an “open mic” environment provides to professionals who want to improve their presentation skills.

If you're in sales or part of a client facing team, you are the differentiator to buyers in today's competitive marketplace. Here's an excerpt from the interview: 

"After several years as a regular in Denver’s stand-up comedy scene, Jay Mays noticed something remarkable was happening. He was becoming better at sales. The connection between public speaking and sales may seem obvious, but Mays wondered why there weren’t more opportunities for salespeople to practice their presentation skills publicly.

"That idea was brought to life as Pitch Lab in 2016. With Denver’s burgeoning entrepreneurial scene, Mays noticed that the only pitching practice many entrepreneurs had received was in front of actual investors. “That’s not the right time,” Mays said.

“I always thought that the idea of an open mic – that comedians were always out there, once, two, three times a night hitting these mics, whether there’s an audience or not to hone their skills, to practice their material, just to get up there and work that muscle was always so fascinating.”"

Click here to read the full article via Brian Fey @ Value Prime Solutions

Jay Mays JD Lopez Left Hand Right Brain Podcast

Left Hand Right Brain 140: Pitch Lab w/ Jay Mays

And thank you to JD Lopez for inviting me as a guest on his Westword-winning Left Hand Right Brain podcast! 

JD is one of the hardest working comics in Denver. He's a writer, producer and genuinely hilarious guy who represented Team Comedian during Denver Startup Week's Battle of the Startups: "Entrepreneurs vs. Comedians!"

I had a blast reliving my glory days as one of the biggest names in Denver Unpaid Comedy as well as telling the origin stories of Pitch Lab & Have-Nots Comedy.

Click here to listen to the full Left Hand Right Brain interview

At the end of the podcast JD asked me if I was an artist. I struggled with the question. I didn't feel authentic saying yes, but aren't we all artists to some degree? Even if I'm not an artist in the traditional sense (painting watercolors on a canvas in front of a serene mountain creek) I am a creator. We are all creators. 

Pitch Lab creates experiences to help professionals like you be more confident and engaging speakers.

Want to learn more? Join us at our next public workshop, or contact me directly to chat! 

Top 7 Sales Superstitions and Why Your Team Believes in Them

sales superstitions

We’ve all been there; you have the opportunity to pitch your dream client.

You take your time during discovery. You gain access to all the decision-makers. You expertly differentiate from the competition. The numbers make sense. Your entire team rallies around the pitch—and you crush it.

But then… nothing. Your dream client goes dark.

Not long after comes the “no.” And it’s over. There’s little consolation. No second prize for “Closed Lost” in Salesforce. 

 

Sales Is Full of Uncertainty

That’s the thing with sales. Even when you work hard and do everything right, sometimes it feels like winning needs a pinch of luck.

So we try to capture that luck. Manufacture that luck.

The belief that we can win is what keeps the wind in our sails, even though deep down we know we can’t control the outcome.

But science shows us that the feeling of control, even an illusory feeling of controlcan reduce stress and thereby increase performance. 

 

Why Superstitions Work

Superstitions help us because they provide a feeling of control, and that feeling of control actually helps salespeople perform better under pressure.

I have my own rituals and started to wonder, does everyone? I reached out to my favorite salespeople that I’ve worked with over the years, and here’s what they had to say about superstitions:

 

“I NEVER celebrate a verbal close or tell my CEO a deal is done until I get final signature from my client.”

– Patrick M., Pandora  

 
“We all have reps on our teams that consistently sandbag. Some of my most senior reps still refuse to tell me when they had a good meeting or even move a deal to a higher percentage in Salesforce for fear of jinxing the momentum.”

– Austin L., Smaato

 
“I once had a building in my territory in SoHo where I literally lost every single deal. It was my Temple of Doom. After a while, I determined the entire building was jinxed and never set foot in there again.”

– Daniel E., Konica Minolta

 
“I have a lucky business card holder. I used it so much the button broke and wouldn’t clasp, but I still rocked it for years.”

– Ed G., Pabst Brewing

 
“I’ll never duplicate and reuse a proposal from a previous ‘Closed Lost’ opportunity.”

– Antonia M., IKE GPS

 
“I have one special mug I'll drink coffee from in the morning if I have a big meeting with a new client or if I’m negotiating a house that day.”

– Ana W., Keller Williams

 
“I always wear a blue shirt if I’m closing a piece of business and if I know there’s a cattle-call pitch that lasts the whole day, 12 noon is my lucky time slot. (Also, it doesn’t hurt to bring the client lunch with heavy carbs so they slip into a food coma while listening to your competitors’ afternoon pitches!)

– Mike H., iHeartRadio

 

Getting Lucky Takes Work

If rituals and superstitions provide you a feeling of control, by all means, use them to combat the stress that comes with the territory (pun intended).

We all welcome a pinch of luck. Unfortunately, it’s not predictable, repeatable or scalable. An even better strategy to feel in control during your pitch is to train harder.

Pitch Lab logo

Lucky for you, Pitch Lab can help you be a more authentic and engaging presenter using proven techniques from your favorite comedians like Chris Rock, Jim Gaffigan and Tina Fey.

In the same way a stand-up comic hits an open mic, Pitch Lab is designed to help you clock the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice Malcolm Gladwell says make a master.

Join us at one of our upcoming Denver workshops, or contact me to learn more about how Pitch Lab can help your team.

Until then, good luck… I mean, break a leg! 

Passion Is for Amateurs. What to Focus on Instead.

 Image via Lion King  Wiki

Image via Lion King Wiki

“Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas.” – Paula Poundstone

16 months ago I left a great company, a company I loved, with the hope of doing something more with my career. I just turned 40. I was tired from being on the road so much. I wanted more time with my wife and kids. It was time for a change, but I didn’t know what was next.

So I read. A lot. Trying to find meaning. Looking for an authentic next step. Wanting to make the most of what is to be “the most successful decade of your career.”

And while I’m far from figuring it all out … (I mean, really, who am I to provide advice on finding your passion, purpose and path?) I did discover a few gems that have helped me tremendously and might help you, too.


Stop doing shit you hate.

You may remember being passionate about practically everything work-related when you were young. I know I do. But, as time goes on, it becomes harder to feel that corporate passion. Especially when nothing feels new. After all, you’re not saving lives. You’re not even saving pets’ lives.

Then Gary Vaynerchuk inspired me to replace the word “passion” with “strength.” This change in perspective changes everything. After that, I wasn’t stuck trying to find passion anymore and created a new plan where I let my strengths guide my decisions.

His message is simple and powerful: Stop doing shit you hate. Nail down your strengths so you can discover your passion.

Ryan Holiday takes the idea of passion one step further in his fantastic book called “The Ego Is the Enemy.” In it, he goes so far as to say you shouldn’t be passionate. Why? Because passion is too deeply rooted in emotion and clouds sound decision-making. Instead, leave passion for amateurs and focus on your purpose.

 

Relax, purpose is everywhere.

Do you ever wonder about your life’s purpose? Does it all come down to a single moment like it did for Simon Birch? Will you be ready for it? What if it never comes?  What if you never invent the next iPhone, cure cancer or land an HBO comedy special?

Then again, what if life isn’t about a single purpose, but rather many different purposes?

Love your partner. Be the best parent you can be. Help your clients succeed. Prioritize your health. Be of service to those in need. All of these are purposes in life.

In Ask the Aged, Karl Pillemer interviews the elderly and discovers that purpose comes down to this:

“The oldest Americans, most of whom also struggled with the question of purpose, tell you to relax. They say that you are likely to have a number of purposes, which will shift as you progress through life.”

Lead with your strengths. They will get you where you need to go. Purpose is everywhere.


There’s no such thing as the wrong career path.

I’ve always thought it’s okay to be on the wrong path, as long as you’re moving in the right direction. But what if there’s no such thing as the wrong career path?  

Turns out, it’s all stepping stones. Choose a goal and go. Anything. Just get moving. Neil Strauss does a fantastic job of explaining at the 36:15 mark. Fast-forward to that part in the interview and listen for 2 minutes. It’s worth it.

The best strategies are emergent. Your path up to this point hasn’t been predictable. It was made up of a series of small decisions. Forks in the road you will continue to encounter for the rest of your life.

I love this quote from Peter Sims’ “Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries,” which shines a light on how we prevent ourselves from getting started on our own paths:

“One of the most commons things I hear people say is they would do something new—take an unconventional career path or start a company—but they need a great idea first. I learned that most successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas—they discover them.”

 

“Not everything has to be okay. And that’s okay.”

Seth Godin's book “What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and It’s Always Your Turn)” has been a great inspiration to me in facing my fear of failure. His philosophies are:

“Fuck it, ship it.”

-AND-

“He who fails most, wins.”

He goes on to say nothing you do means anything until it interacts with the market. Until then, it’s as if there is no work. Like this blog post I’ve been sitting on for months now. I have to publish it.

No, it’s not perfect. But, for me, it represents a single authentic step forward. There's no simple way to quiet the noise in your head. Not everything has to be okay.

Maybe you’re sitting on imperfect work as well. Work that might change the entire trajectory of your career. Go ahead, ship it. I’d love to read it. Probably. At the very least, I’ll skim it. I’m kidding… send me a link.