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Root Canal Dentistry, Michael McIntyre and Manfred Mann …

13 July, 2016

I love going to the dentist!

OK before you think I’m weird – some sort of masochistic pain freak… let me explain!

For a start – modern dentistry is (virtually!) pain free… and the fact is I share with my dentist Imi an interest in public speaking, and I am always stimulated by our brief discussions – before my mouth is numb and filled with swabs, vacuums and drills! I told him I had used a discussion we had had on a previous visit as a stimulus for a series of blog posts on “nerves when speaking” (basically I get nervous, he doesn’t!) – see here.

Anyway – after today’s visit to have some fairly complex root canal work done – he said “go on then – do a blog post on root canals”! Challenge accepted Imi!

Well this is not exactly about root canals …  but is stimulated by the way you work!

The title of this post may seem strange…. but as a speaker I study and learn from other performers, and indeed other professions not related to entertainment. After all – a dentist is “performing” with great skill as well!

I believe the secret of all great performers – actors, comedians, musicians – as well as other professions like dentists, lawyers and  doctors – lies in an almost undefinable quality – combining confidence, experience, charisma and an utter command of the knowledge and skills required in their chosen field. It is what defines “professionalism” – whatever the actual “job” of the person is.

The reason I mentioned Michael McIntyre as an example is because I can remember when he first burst on the scene as an unknown yet “fully formed” comedian – or so it seemed. It was in a Royal Variety performance in 2006 – where he commanded the stage and delivered a funny, engaging performance, full of the observational comedy about the minutiae and “everyday quirks” of modern life that we now know as his trademark. The thing is – looking back, his actual material seems very trivial and inconsequential – something that his fellow (and less successful!) comedians have criticised him for.  However it is not so much his material that impressed me – but his utter confidence and “chutzpah” – totally at ease on stage and grabbing the audience by the scruff of the neck! I remember thinking “Wow – where did he come from”. Of course the truth is – he had spent many years as an unknown on “the circuit” honing his skills – and his charisma, confidence and stage presence were the result of many previous performances learning his craft. (If you have time you can watch his debut performance here.)

Likewise – I am a friend of Mike d’Abo – lead singer and songwriter of the sixties rock band Manfred Mann – still touring and performing as The Manfreds. I have seen Mike do his stuff many times and what always impresses me is the slickness of the band’s performance, the way they strut their stuff – there is almost a swagger about the way they move and perform. It communicates to the audience “We know what we are doing. We are in control. We have done this thousands of times. We know our material inside put. You are in safe hands”. Mike in particular is great at “working the audience” and puts his heart and soul into his delivery of many iconic songs from the sixties. (see here)

Audiences can sense when a performer is in charge – knowing they can relax and enjoy the show. As a speaker I know the same thing applies. Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers” elaborated on the principle of the “10,000 hour rule” – stating that true mastery of any profession can only be attained after 10,000 hours of study, deliberate practice and performance in order to become “world class”.  The good news is that there are short cuts – which lie in the concept of “modelling” – that is, studying and adopting the behaviour, body language and mannerisms of other performers and incorporating them into your own performances.

In another of his seminal books (“Blink” – The Power of Thinking Without Thinking) Gladwell also analyses the way in which we often make decisions in milliseconds (literally in the “blink of an eye”) – based on non-verbal cues such as body language, appearance and general attitude – and which often prove to be correct. All great performers have this ability to influence their audiences – even before they “do” anything! It is almost a “magical” quality! Which is why I take inspiration from Michael McIntyre (and most comedians), Manfred Mann (and most musicians) – and Imi my dentist!

So what has his root canal work got to do with this?  Simply put, Imi’s work is so sure, skilful and precise, his knowledge and analysis so great, his communication skills so fulsome and his manner so confident – that I can relax, knowing – as I said above – “I am in safe hands”.

That has to be the ultimate aim of any professional – whatever the actual job they do!

If you are looking for a speaker or conference host who has the confidence to ensure the success of your next event – please get in touch!

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