Leverage Your Discomfort

by Will Rogers on 4/6/2013

  

I feel like a lot of radio people harbor some deep-seated awkwardnesses. If you’re among them (among us), I’m here to tell you that not only is this ok, it can, in some circumstances, actually prove quite useful.

You’ve probably heard that an audience mimics the emotional state of the speaker. It’s true. If you’re watching someone speak confidently, you’ll feel more confident, and if you’re watching someone who’s uncomfortable, you’ll feel uncomfortable. What you probably have not heard, though, is that feeling uncomfortable can help you tell a more dramatic story.

This is one of the reasons I love this story by Noah St. John. You’ll probably want to go ahead and listen to it before reading the rest of this blogpost, because there are major spoilers coming up.

In the story, Noah is afraid (terrified) that his two mothers are going to get a divorce, and this fear generates the perfect atmosphere for tension in the room... that isn’t the only source of tension in the room, though. It also feels like he’s scared of the audience.

You can hear it in his voice when he talks about his mothers’ car. He’s overflowing with emotion when he says, “They bought it brand new.” It’s pretty obvious that his emotion doesn’t have anything to do with that line about the car... That’s the sound of stagefright. The first time I listened to this story, I felt a little scared for him... “Is he going to make it?”

And then, he gets to the point in the story where he realizes that his mothers are not getting a divorce after all. He exclaims, “THIS ISN’T A BREAKUP RIDE, THIS IS A STAY TOGETHER RIDE!”

Noah’s discomfort has completely transmuted into confident exuberance by this point. If you watch the video version of the story, you’ll see that his free hand, which had been awkwardly dangling at his side, becomes the signal of his greatest euphoria. His voice, which had betrayed a sense of intimidation, now glides smoothly over the audience, like a surfer on a wave.

Every bit of discomfort during the first half of the story becomes an ounce of potential energy that is released during the second half of the story, with the help of a live band to enhance the story’s peaks and valleys.

The moral? Don’t be afraid if you get super uncomfortable. Tell yourself, “I feel super uncomfortable, but this story is too important to let my discomfort get the best of me.” You’ll continue, and the payoff will be huge for the audience, for you, and for the story itself.

The Last Mile
Noah St. John on the SnapJudgment Stage in 2012
6 minutes

 

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