I went to my first comedy gig in a long-time last week. It wasn’t anything particularly fancy – a small stage set up in the corner of the glorious Ludlow Brewery tap room – but being our first comedy gig since lockdown, it was something I was particularly looking forward to.
The first act was very honest. He explained from the get-go that this was about road-testing his material for his Edinburgh show. Of course, Edinburgh is a big deal for stand-ups – it’s their equivalent of a TED Talk or seed funding pitch presentation . It can make or break their career. Ergo, turning up unprepared and ‘winging it’ is the equivalent of career suicide.
Stand-ups, from those at the start of their career to those on top of their game, do a lot of these ‘work in progress’ gigs in the lead-up to Edinburgh.
They’re hard work.
And they’re incredibly valuable.
The chap we watched had moments of glory where the room was awash with uncontrolled laughter, and then a moment later, other gags just died. Watching him devour the feedback was remarkable – you could tell that the groans and silences were as important to him as the laughter. It was all part of the journey to crafting a routine that would kill at Edinburgh. The more painful the gig, the more valuable the feedback and its function in honing his show.
Business presenters are, on the whole, rubbish at doing this. They rarely road test their presentations, no matter how important the ‘gig’, preferring to have a general sense of what they are going to say and then just ‘winging it’.
We should be doing better than that.
We should be using our colleagues for their feedback. Let’s make our mistakes in front of small audiences who, let’s be frank, don’t matter as much as the big audience. Why don’t we road test our presentations like the best stand-ups do?
- Did the message resonate with the audience?
- Did the content ‘land’?
- How did the visuals work in terms of punctuating your points?
These are simple questions, but we rarely put ourselves in a position to allow test audiences to give us feedback. How powerful would it be to have feedback on an important pitch BEFORE you deliver it?
So go on – build some time into your presentation project plan for some ‘road testing’.
PS – You don’t have to do it at Ludlow Brewery, but if you do, I highly recommend a pint of Ludlow Gold afterwards.
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