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Command & Conquer the Stage

You might have the greatest presentation, with the greatest facts ever assembled to support your position, but if you can’t engage the audience, you’re toast. People forget the facts, but they don’t forget the people they connected with or the stories they shared.

Delivering a powerful presentation requires a lot of preparation and effort. You know that. But Bo Eason takes the rigor of a professional athlete and brings it to his prep work. When training for a vigorous season, an athlete puts in “invisible hours” that no one ever sees. When it’s game time, it’s full-on action from this former NFL standout.

In the first installment of this two-part Bo Eason interview, we explored how to find and structure your unique story. But who wants to hear a story if it isn’t delivered in its fullest glory?

Bo built a second career by telling his story and commanding massive audiences as he recalls his football career that culminated in four seasons with the Houston Oilers and a brief stint with the San Francisco 49ers. He has performed his one-man play Runt of the Litter to critical acclaim in over 50 cities and all the way to Broadway. Bo applies this vast stage experience and knowledge to the training of professional speakers globally to improve their performance, presence and effectiveness.

If you want to totally dominate your next presentation or are ready for a speaking makeover, do what Bo does. You are almost guaranteed the win.

In part two of this series with Publisher Paul Feldman, Bo tells you how to deliver a commanding performance every time.

FELDMAN: You’ve worked with thousands of speakers over the years. What things do you look at when assessing a speaker’s performance?

EASON: The first thing I look at is the speaker’s connection to a person in the room. The biggest mistake speakers make is when they have a group of any size – 50, 100 or 1,000 – and they try to speak to the whole group. They cannot. Physiologically, it’s an impossibility to speak to a group.
When you try to connect to everybody, you connect to nobody. When you connect to one person, you connect to all persons.
bo-easton-quote.jpgIf you’re sitting in the front row and I’m connected to you, I’m talking to you like we’re having a beer in a bar. The audience behind you, which may be 1,000 people, now puts themselves in your position. They think that I’m speaking only to them privately. That’s the magic of this thing.

Often I’ll do a performance and there’ll be 400 people in the audience. I’m speaking to a person on the left and a person on the right. So I’m talking to two people. But people in the back row, who I didn’t even see, come up to me afterward and say, “You were only speaking to me. That was so cool. Thank you.” They thought it was a private conversation between me and them.
That is the magic of performance. You have to be brave because it ain’t easy to feel vulnerable once you start connecting to a person. Emotions might come up or they might not come up, but you’re vulnerable in that situation. That’s why people don’t do it. They are vague, general, and disconnected and think they’re going to survive the day. You’re going to survive the day, yeah, but you’re not going to close the numbers that you should be closing.
Intimacy is the reason people open their wallets. People have the connection. Now they trust. Now they give you their money.
Let me give you this statistic. Eighty-four percent of high-wealth individuals, people who have a million dollars of investable assets, are right-brained. Right-brained individuals don’t know how to connect to information. They know how to connect to story and humanity. That’s it.
If those are the clients you want, [remember that] they only understand story. They don’t understand numbers, percentages, columns. So, why would you speak to them in that way?

FELDMAN: What other mistakes do you look for?

EASON: The second mistake is that speakers have their presentation memorized. Then they perform it by rote: “Hi. I’m Bo Eason and I’ve done this presentation 480 times and you’re gonna hear it again right now. So here we go. Blah, blah, blah, blah.”
That’s not giving the audience anything. You must look at a person in the front row. You must connect to that person and tell them what you’re going to do. You have to tell them your story and you have to cocreate that relationship. That is magic.
That’s where these high-wealth individuals decide that they’re going to work with you based on connection. Not based on information.
But when many people give presentations, they look over the heads of the audience. They’re kind of general and saying it how they always say it.
But notice something when you’re one-on-one with somebody, on a date or having a beer with a friend, and you’re telling them a story. It might be a story that they already know, but because it’s intimate and it’s one-on-one, you recreate the story with that person in real time right in front of each other.
That is what you must do to an audience over and over and over again. You have to recreate the story. You have to recreate the whole vibe in there. You can’t just do what you did last week. It’s impossible. You see presenters do this all the time, and they’re boring. You don’t want to watch them, and you can tell they’re just going through the motions. You’re never going to buy from that person.

FELDMAN: In picking out the audience member that you focus on, what do you look for?

EASON: I go right to the good energy. The person who is smiling and nodding their head. I can tell. If somebody looks down when I make eye contact, I’ll know that person doesn’t like to be spoken to so I don’t choose them.
Your energy, your human instincts will go right to the right person and if they don’t, you’ll correct it really quickly. It’s just like dating. You’re at a dance and you look over and there are six girls over there and you wanna go dance with one of them. One of them looks at you and then puts her head down and turns her back. You say, “OK, not that one.”
Then you look at the one who is kind of inviting, a smile and the inviting eyes. You go to that one. You do the same thing with your audience.
Then you look on the right. You look over to the other section of the audience and you find your energy will go to the right person and that’s how I find them.

FELDMAN: When I saw you speak, I thought you were looking at me. It was probably somebody in front of me or behind me, but I felt like you were talking right to me.

EASON: I learned that by performing on Broadway. There are these big old sections in Broadway theaters. There’s a big section on the left and there’s a big section on the right and there’s an aisle in between. You have to connect with a person on the left and then that whole section on the left thinks you’re speaking only to them.
Then you connect to a person on the right and that whole section on the right thinks that you’re talking only to them. That might be 400 people, but because you’re connecting to a single human being, their experience is that they’re the only person in the room.

FELDMAN: That worked at your show, because I spoke with audience members and they felt that of all the speakers, you connected the best. The line of buyers after you spoke also confirmed it.

EASON: It’s usually the case because of the story that gives us intimacy.

It’s just like you and I now have a connection forever based on my story. It’s how you find yourself inside of the story and say, “I had a dream as a kid, like Bo did”. Now our stories are married and we have a connection forever.
So, if I see you in 20 years and you’re a grandpa or you have eight kids, you say, “Bo, I remember when you talked about your dream and then I fulfilled my dream. Here it is.” We’ll always have that connection. If I were on stage last week and just gave you information, told you how to make money and told you how to do this and that, you would have forgotten that by now. You would have forgotten it on the plane ride home.

FELDMAN: One of your strategies to command a stage and an audience is to walk like a predator. I know how people initially respond to that, but tell us what it means to you?

EASON: We’ve been indoctrinated about this word “predator” in our media and they’ve given this moniker to the worst of our society. We think “predator” is a bad word. Like it’s someone who crosses boundaries and operates outside the law. I say that you should think of predators in the wild.
bo-easton-quote2.jpgLions and tigers, cheetahs and leopards. Great white sharks and falcons, eagles. Think of a killer whale and then think of human beings. Naturally we’re predators and we’re the most dangerous predators of all. We’re the smartest. We’re the most evolved. We’re lethal.
Predators are also very noble, honorable and trustworthy. When you see a predator you know what you get. When we go to the zoo and see the lion, even though he’s behind a cage, we have ultimate respect for that lion. We know what to expect from that lion. We know that he’s lethal. We know that he’s mighty. We know that he’s gorgeous. You can’t take your eyes off the lion. You know he’s the king of the jungle.
Well, you and I are no different than those predators. We have that same power that they have. We have that same danger, if you will. The way we walk naturally is like a predator. But we’ve been in this culture so long and we’ve heard how bad it is to be dangerous and to be a predator and to be powerful, that we’ve apologized for it.
Now we’re walking around, men and women, trying to hide the very thing that is most powerful about us, which is our true nature, our natural disposition, to be a predator.
I have a theory that the people who are most accepting of their own true primitive nature are the ones who are going to lead and succeed. The ones who are the furthest from their nature are going to fall behind because they are not loyal to their own natural disposition. They’re trying to be something that they’re not, and there’s a sense of inauthenticity when you smell that, when you feel that.
Those people might have the leadership. They may have Washington, D.C., and Hollywood right now. They might have the media right now. They have the microphones for the moment, but they’re slowly but surely going to be replaced by us, the people who are in touch with their nature, who aren’t afraid of their own power.
Everything politicians do is so programmed and unnatural that you can’t even listen to them anymore. They’re our so-called leaders, but why do they have no power? Why do they have no voice? Because everything they do is a manipulation.
Everything they do is to get 50 percent of the polling numbers. You and I don’t have to worry about that. We’re not interested in 50 percent of some polling number. We’re interested in who we naturally are. Those are the people who are going to lead. Those are the people who are going to run every industry.
When you see an elite athlete move, a firefighter charging into a burning building or a Navy SEAL charging a beachhead, I guarantee you cannot take your eyes off them. Well, I bring that notion to the stage because I don’t want anybody looking away from me while I’m on stage.
I don’t want anybody to take a breath. I don’t want them to think about going to the bathroom. I don’t want them to think about anything. I just want them to keep their eyes on me because they know if they look away something bad could happen.
Once you surrender to the fact that we are predators and we are so powerful, it’s beyond measure. People can’t look away from you. So, imagine what kind of power you would have in your life and in your business if people didn’t have the ability to look away from you. That’s powerful.

I love this quote: “There’s only one way to command Mother Nature, and that’s by obeying her.” The only way you can command an audience is by obeying your natural instincts. We’re like these noble, honorable beasts, but we keep apologizing, saying, “No, no. Actually I’m just a really nice guy. Polite.” That gets you nowhere.

FELDMAN: Can someone be a “predator” from behind a podium or when clicking through PowerPoint slides? I noticed you typically don’t use them when you present.

EASON: That’s right. A performance coach, many years ago, told me, “You, as a human being, are 1,000 times more interesting than anything you can put up on that screen.”
So, why would you waste the connective tissue that you as a human being naturally have by putting it up on some fake, phony light show? For human beings, the biggest attractions are other human beings. We’re looking at them all the time.
Think about when you’re walking in the streets of New York or Paris or any big city. You can sit on a bench and you can just watch people all day because it’s so interesting how they move or why they move or why their hair’s that way. You can sit there all day doing it.
It’s intoxicating because we are trained primitively to look at other human beings and find who is friend, who is foe, who is food, who is not, who we’re going to partner with, who we’re going to procreate with. That’s who we are. So, why would you give them a light show? It has no molecules and no human element to it.

FELDMAN: I read somewhere that you have put in 20,000-plus hours of stage time, but yet you still prepare hours before you get up on the stage. Would you share some of the things that you do when you arrive early?

EASON: When most people do presentations, they walk in and they’ve never seen the stage. They’ve never been in the restaurant. They don’t know the structure of it. That makes you a visitor.
bo-easton-quote3.jpgIf you’re giving a presentation, that is your home. If you’ve never been there before, you have to get in there hours or days before and mark your territory. I want to touch that wall. I want to touch the back wall. I want to put my hands on the chairs, the tables. I want my audience to feel like they are safe, they are at home and they are in good hands. So I mark my territory.
I usually get rid of podiums. I hate podiums. I don’t want them anywhere near me. I clear the stage.
I make that room mine so that I feel at home and I can risk it all. I can be anything I want to be up there, and the audience is going to follow me.
Therefore, when your audience enters the room, they feel like they’re at home. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable and cold, like I’m not hosting this.

FELDMAN: It seems like you prepare as you would for a football game.

EASON: I think of presentations as athletic events. I always warm my voice up. I warm my body up. I would never enter an athletic event without a warm-up.
So I move my body. I skip around. I start to get where I almost start to sweat. I’m moving around and making sounds and touching walls and really taking over the whole room because no one’s going to see me there. There might be an assistant there or some technical people there, but who cares? This is rehearsal. This is getting ready to present.
It’s an athletic event. If you’re going to run the 100 meters in the Olympics, you’re not just going to enter the stadium and run the 100 meters. You’re going to have a proper warm-up.
When your potential clients walk into that room, they know they’re being taken care of. They know they’re in the presence of something great because you’re warmed up. You’re ready to go.
It’s your room. You’re not starting the presentation cold. You’re already warmed up. Your voice is moving. Your molecules are moving. You’re athletic. The audience is going to keep their eyes on you, and therefore you’re going to close more of them. You’re going to make more money, and you’re going to help your clients more.
Preparation is the key to everything. With every great athlete, every great performer that I’ve never known, the only difference between the best in the world and the second best is that the best prepares. They prepare more and they prepare more efficiently. That’s the only difference.
Even the greatest, like Jerry Rice, who was a teammate. He prepared more than the rest of us, which makes him the greatest ever to play. Joe Montana prepared more than the rest of us. Warren Moon, who was my quarterback in Houston, prepared more than the other quarterbacks. That’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame. Every great performer who I’ve ever seen, whether in athletics or business or giving presentations, they prepare more than the amateurs. They prepare more than all the other pros.
Preparation. Start making time for your prep work, for what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it; get your body ready to say it, then say it. Then let it come out.

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