Recently, I had a chance to attend a Garth Brooks concert in Knoxville, TN. If you haven’t seen Garth live, you should. I don’t even like country music (I know… don’t tell the rest of Nashville) but seeing Garth live was an unbelievable experience. I believe that he is one of the best communicators out there. It doesn’t matter if you speak to an arena full of people or a boardroom of twelve, every one of us is a communicator. I believe that there are six key things every leader with a platform to speak should do.
1. The Hits
Bring your hits — the very best ideas. No one wants your b-side talk or some new idea you haven’t figured out yet. Garth has recorded hundreds of songs over the years but only played the songs that he knows connect with his audiences. Every time we take the stage, we owe the audience our very best.
2.Walk in Authority
Someone gave you a platform and microphone because they wanted you to be in charge. When you take that mic, podium, Andy Stanley table, spot at the front of the class, or the seat at the head of the table you have been given authority. Be confident of the fact that you are calling the shots. It was VERY clear that Mr. Brooks was the only one who had control of that sold out arena.
3. Be Surprised
Hands down, he is one of the greatest performers I’ve seen. I’ve been to two of his shows, and he always takes the stage with the perfect balance of swagger and humility. At the same time you stand in authority, remember that 90% of the time you speak people aren’t being forced to be there (unless you speak in prisons or Christian college chapels) so be grateful when people engage with your content.
4. Give people an Anthem to Sing
Great artists give people songs they can’t get out of their head. So do great speakers. What makes a great song is what’s called a hook. It’s something memorable that people can repeat. Give people ideas that will stick with them and ooze into their everyday lives.
5. Honor the place where you are
Garth wore UT orange when he played in Knoxville. Because it’s a good color orange? No. He wore it because he was on their turf. He still had fun and got in a dig with his team from Oklahoma. Now I’m not saying when you are in Texas that you should wear a Dallas Cowboys jersey (because no one should be subjected to that kind of abuse), but I am saying you should honor the place where you are. Chances are the people had no control of having you there, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go out of your way for them to be glad you were there.
Someone in the audience needs hope. In every room I have ever had the chance to speak in someone was in desperate need of hope. I have met kids with no dreams, teachers ready to quit, guys with no direction in life, and people facing the end of life all needing hope. Stay at home if you don’t plan on delivering it. Hope is the most powerful commodity on this planet. Look your audience in the eyes and you can tell who needs hope. On this night, it was a lady holding up a sign that said, “guitar for my mom” for a lady whose mom had been battling cancer.
Whatever you do, don’t leave anything in the tank; leave it all on the stage. By the end of the night, Garth was dripping in sweat, his voice was shot, and it looked like he could barely move. When you get the chance to stand in front of people, give them everything you have. You have the chance to give people information that could change their lives so do it. If I learned anything from Garth, it’s that you need to give your audience everything you have, and they will happily return the favor.