Last year I went to see Cher at Caesar’s palace in Las Vegas. The Coliseum Theater can seat 4,300 people. Listed ticket prices are $100-$255. Tickets for premium seats can be over $500 online. Averaging out to $180-$200 per ticket, this means her audience collectively paid approximately $750,000 for her ninety minute “presentation”.
By and large the audience already loved Cher before they arrived, evidenced by their willingness to pay those ticket prices. How did she open this presentation? Even though she didn’t need to gain the audience’s affection she did something to further endear her audience. Before she started her performance, cameras were panning the audience to show the excited happy crowd. Cameras paused long enough on each area for the people to wave, do their best dance moves or act completely silly on a large screen in front of 4,000 strangers. This involved her audience who became part of the show before she even came onto the stage. With a dramatic entrance, from 40 feet above the audience in a gondola she jokingly calls her “Flying Wallenda, Evel Knievel death-mobile” she descended onto the stage.
Immediately after she landed and stepped onto the stage she used humor to connect with the audience. That day, prior to the show, she had strained her back. She wove the story of how it happened, into her standard material and explained why she had decided to perform despite the injury and pain. Her humor material was not extremely well written nor was it delivered exceptionally well but it didn’t need to be. She is an accomplished singer who at 63 still has a phenomenal voice and is able to put on an incredible show. She didn’t need to involve the audience or use humor but she did. Within 5 minutes of being on stage she had the audience mezmorized.
One of my mentors, Darren LaCroix, teaches that if you want to be the best, learn from the best. While I don’t have the desire or talent to be a singer, I do want my audiences to have a great experience when they hear me present.
As a presenter what can you learn from Cher, one of the best in the world at what she does?
1. Involve your audience as early as possible. Use questions or stories about your audience if possible. Know your audience and relate to them EARLY.
2. Have a memorable opening. You don’t need to descend from the ceiling but you need to do something different than the standard boring “Good morning, thank you for being here, blah, blah blah.” (gag me)
3. Use personal stories. We could all relate to Cher’s story about hurting her back and still going out and doing what needed to be done.
4. Use humor to enhance your audience’s experience. It helps set up a better learning environment. Immediately after laughter the brain retains information better than at any other time.
You may never give a $750,000 presentation but if you want to reach the highest levels possible and give your audience all they deserve, learn from the best.
What will be your Flying Wallenda, Evel Knievel death-mobile next time you present? What will you do differently to immediately engage your audience?