Diverse experience teaches you more about yourself, helps you develop solid relationships and sharpens your presence on the speaking platform.
I bought tickets for a Moms Mabley Concert. Yes, that was in the 1960s. A
famous black comedienne, she was playing in Oakland, California, with a local
black rock band which I had never heard of. It was an experience I'll always
remember. When we arrived at the theatre, we estimated that there were about
1000 fans attending the performance. And there were maybe 10 people in the
whole building who were not African-American. For the first time, this white
guy from North Dakota knew what it felt like to be a minority in a large
crowd. My awareness grew and my comfort zone expanded. The concert was
Valuing diversity and expanding your comfort zones is a pathway to a richer
life and a more powerful presence as a speaker. Stepping outside gives you
boundless new perspectives and new levels of understanding. With
understanding comes appreciation. With appreciation comes life enrichment.
And along the path, the experiences you gain will strengthen your speaking
In the 1970s, I again found myself outside my comfort zone. I traveled to
Japan. My ten-day vacation included the usual tourist experiences, taking
public transportation and walking the city streets looking for accommodations
in a strange city with nothing but a map and a phrase book. On a crowded city
street, this six-foot-three-inch white guy felt like an outsider. Checking
into my first Japanese Inn I discovered that they didn't speak a word of
English. Another great experience. I loved Japan.
Soon after that, while enrolled in American Sign Language classes, I attended
a basketball game between two deaf schools. Once again I was an outsider in
a gymnasium filled with people communicating in a foreign language. I'll
always remember the band. Two bass drums. The vibration of the drum beats
could be felt by everyone in the gym. It was an enriching visit to an
outside world, and I never had to leave town.
Since those days, I've always been on the lookout for opportunities to
experience something new. Have you visited a Jewish Synagogue or a Catholic
mass? Have you toured a mental hospital? Have you visited a prison to give
a speech to the inmates? Have you attended a gay pride parade? Have you
attended a black gospel music concert? As an introvert, have you found
yourself at a Karaoke Bar where you were seemingly surrounded by extroverts
and summoned the courage to jump on stage, grab the microphone and sing a
song? These are a few of the things I've done to expose myself to new and
varied experiences with people different from me. And I always discovered
that, for the most part, they weren't so different at all.
I recommend similar experiences to you. Stepping outside your comfort zone
helps you to experience, understand and appreciate the lives of others. It
will make you comfortable with how we are different and amazed at how we are
alike. It will make you a better and wiser person and speaker. It will
deepen the content of your talks. It will enhance your delivery style. It
will enrich your life.
Diverse experiences will improve the content of your presentations because
they will broaden your story base. Exposed to a rich variety of cultures and
people, you'll develop personal stories with far more depth and variety than
you currently have. Through my experiences I've added stories about the
deaf, about gays and about African-Americans, all through my personal
interaction with people. Your presentation content will also be sharpened
because you'll be more in tune with your audiences. An unexpected fringe
benefit of watching Moms Mabley perform to a nearly all-black audience was
the opportunity to peek into the lives, concerns and thinking of the
African-American culture. Her comedy routine at the concert in Oakland
wasn't the same material she used on the Ed Sullivan Show! With a better
understanding of cultures and people you'll make a stronger connection with
the today's increasingly diverse audiences. Your material will begin to
appeal to a larger range of audiences which will magnify your impact as you
reach a wider audience base.
Exposing yourself to diverse cultures can improve your presentation skills.
I was amazed to discover how the language of the deaf, American Sign
Language, is a more richly expressive language than spoken English. Watch a
deaf person communicate and you won't see an inanimate talking head. You'll
see someone whose face lights up when she speaks. You'll see someone whose
body gets involved in the communication. You would probably be a better
presenter if you could communicate as effectively as the deaf. Also, just as
you can enrich your presentation with a study of various theatre and other
performance styles, visiting other cultures exposes you to a variety of
entertainment styles you wouldn't otherwise see. While in Japan I attended a
traditional Kabuki Theatre performance. The music and movement were unlike
anything I had seen before. And watching a black gospel choir in action is a
study in communicating with meaning and emotion.
Expanding your experience in the diverse world also sharpens your ability to
create humor. This is partly because you will see a wide variety of new
humor styles. Black, gay and Jewish cultures are rich with humor. But in
addition to seeing new styles of humor, you also learn to think differently.
A foundation of humor is the ability to see things differently. At the core
of creating original humor is your ability to create new relationships
between concepts and things. At the base of most humor is a fresh connection
between two previously unconnected thoughts. Your experiences in a diverse
world will strengthen your ability to create humor.
Living in the diverse world will enrich your life. Experiencing how people
are more alike than different, you'll gain a refreshing appreciation for the
true goodness of people. By gaining a deeper understanding of people, you'll
understand yourself better. You'll develop new skills for relating and
interacting with a wide variety of people. You'll better understand what
makes other people tick. And by taking the risk of stepping outside your
comfort zone you'll search for even more adventures. With success comes the
courage to step outside again and again. And we all know that a fulfilling
life comes not from the destination but from the journey.
Value diversity, expand your horizons, become a more powerful speaker and
enrich your life.
Copyright 2006 by John Kinde
You may republish this article with the following credit line:
"Copyright by John Kinde, who is a humor specialist in the training and speaking business for over 30 years specializing in teambuilding, customer service and stress management. Free Special Reports: Show Me The Funny -- Tips for Adding Humor to Your Presentations and When They Don't Laugh -- What To Do When the Laughter Doesn't Come. Humor Power Tips newsletter, articles and blog are available at www.humorpower.com."