(Note: I know it was Mother's Day yesterday and maybe Kay would have preferred seeing Dark Shadows or some other chick-flick titled something like, When Harry Met Pretty Woman In The Twilight Of Four Weddings & A Funeral. But as she says, she's not my mother and her other child, Kelly, did surprise her Thursday night coming home and spending Friday shopping downtown and seeing Titanic 3D.)
But I digress. Back to The Avengers and how it relates to an embarrassing incident in my life many years ago.
I was scheduled to speak in Orlando for the Mobile Modular Office Association, which doesn't exist anymore. The night before I headed over to Paradise Island's Adventurer's Club, which also no longer exists. The Adventurer's Club was great fun. Designed to look like an old English hunt and adventure club, the public co-mingled with Disney cast members acting as both club members and staff.
That night I had an entertaining one-on-one with the "club's" butler. We bantered straight-faced for several minutes seeing who could make the other one laugh first. Finally, still in character, he said, "You seem to be a funny fellow. How would you like to compete in tonight's amateur comedian contest?" I, naturally, said no, but then he said, "Each contestant gets a free drink," to which I quickly accepted.
How hard could it be? It was only five minutes and I AM a professional speaker, after all. I have dozens of hysterical stories. All I had to was pick one, hit the stage, kill them with my natural wit and story-telling ability, get my free drink, and bathe in the adulation of new found fans.
Five competitors. Five minutes each.
I was third. Yes, I was a little nervous, but nothing I couldn't handle from years of speaking from the stage. The crowd was good and liquored up and eager to laugh. I grabbed the mike and launched into one of my signature stories guaranteed to bring the house down.
Crickets. I swear, 90-seconds into the longest five minutes of my life, I heard crickets. For some reason my can't-miss story actually missed them! How was that possible? I'd told that story hundreds of times and hit it out of the park every single time! Three young women in the front obviously felt bad for me and tried to laugh. It was that "We feel pity for you" heh-heh, that actually made things worse. I probably sweated more in that five minutes than the photographer for this week's Time magazine cover.
I came in fourth...out of five competitors. The guy who came in fifth didn't even bother to come back for the voting. I was emotionally rocked.
Trying to figure out what went wrong, I inserted that exact same story into my MMOA speech the next day. I set it up the same and delivered it the same.
It killed. People were wiping tears from their eyes. They were laughing so hard that a table of monks in the back who all swore a vow of silence were on their chairs screaming for more. Women threw their mobile modular undergarments at me.
So the lesson I learned at the Adventurer's Club is also one of the reasons The Avengers is doing so well in the box office. I call it the Unexpected WOW.
After my debacle in Orlando, Kay pointed out that I am not presented to my audiences as a comedian. I am a marketing, innovation, and branding guy. My audiences' expectations are to hear solid content for growing their businesses. They don't expect me to be funny, so when I am, that's an unexpected bonus. I catch them off guard. Comedians are expected to be funny, so it's much harder to make people laugh.
Leaving The Avengers, Kay said she especially enjoyed the movie because it was unexpectedly funny. When the Hulk sucker punches Thor after they teamed up to beat up the bad guys, the audience (including me) exploded with laughter.
In my speeches and, I hope, my messages to you, I stress that your brand must be DIFFERENT in the eyes of your customers. What Unexpected WOWs are you delivering to your customers? Unexpected WOWs come out of left field. They make you DIFFERENT than the competition, not just better. If you simply work to be better, that's not really unexpected, is it?