Public Speaking Lessons I Learned from Dick Dale
What can we learn from the King of the Surf Guitar to help us be a better business performer?
As entrepreneurs we must be better speakers, whether advanced or inexperienced, whether speaking in ballrooms or in board meetings. Like the great Dick Dale we must perform and engage. We all face the same challenges, it can seem daunting.
How do we create compelling, relevant, and useful content for our audiences in a way that they are able to take our messages and use them to transform their work or lives?
How do we engage our audiences and make a human connection, so that they can envision for themselves the possibilities we present and take steps to achieve them?
And what kind of growth and personal development do we have to embrace to get ourselves into the right mindset with the right attitude to support and encourage our audience’s growth?
It’s not as hard as you think to make these shifts and transformations, both for your own benefit and for that of your audience.
Presenting is so much more than just standing in front of a group of people and pontificating. It’s so much more than “telling,” or “lecturing” or “conveying information.”
Whether you’re trying to master this skill so you can make a living at it or just trying to get through those team updates your boss keeps asking you to do, you will find new perspective in my book Presenting for Humans: Insights for Speakers on Ditching Perfection and Creating Connection.
Enjoy this sample from the book on how everyday encounters and experiences can make you a better speaker, a more joyful speaker, a more captivating speaker, a more effective speaker, and, most important, a more human speaker.
How to be a better Public Speaker?
The superstar of Surf Guitar and Legend, Dick Dale is a shining example of showmanship and style. Let’s take a deeper look into what we can learn about successful public speaking from a true master.
Presenting for Humans: Insights for Speakers on Ditching Perfection and Creating Connection
(Author: Lisa Braithwaite)
Play for the people
Dick Dale – the King of the Surf Guitar – played a small concert here in Santa Barbara a few years ago, and as a big fan of surf music, I was thrilled to attend. At the time of the concert, Dale was 70 and could rock the house like a guy in his 20s.
In addition to playing guitar, he sings, plays drums, plays drums on the bass guitar strings, and also plays a Louis Armstrong-inspired trumpet. And those are just the instruments he chose for this particular show – his website lists a total of 17 instruments that he has mastered.
His young son Jimmy accompanied him onstage, matching him note for note on his matching gold Fender Stratocaster and also played some mean drums. Dale is a complete entertainer, holding nothing back, and many elements of his performance translate over to public speaking.
- Put the audience first
Dale is all about the audience. He mentioned that he doesn’t have a set list, which is unconventional in a live show. Some fans come to consecutive shows, he said, and he never wants to play the same songs in the same order (or in the same style) that he played them the night before.
He also addressed some young guitar players in the front row when he said, “Play for the people,” not to impress other musicians. “When the people like what you play, it means you’re giving your heart to them.”
He closed the show by introducing and thanking his band members and then turning to the audience and saying, “And most of all, you!”
- Incorporate audience interaction
Twice during the evening, Dale encouraged the audience to sing along – which we did.
Throughout the show, he spoke directly to individuals in the audience, some of them his hardcore fans, also known as “Dick Heads.”
He paid special attention to the young musicians in the front row, repeatedly giving them advice about musicianship and life.
- Let your body do the talking
When a musician of mostly instrumental and quite complex music has his hands full with a guitar, and is also directing his band, how exactly does he communicate to the audience? With the rest of his body!
Dale’s expressive face and physical movements were as effective as though he were explaining his music in words. As he played, he managed to use his hands and body to communicate to his band members, encourage his son to take center stage, point out friends in the audience, and also move expressively to the music like a surfer on a wave.
- You are the host; the audience members are your guests
At the conclusion of the show, Dale went right to signing autographs. My husband and I and other audience members went ahead to the reception.
When Dale arrived at the reception, he greeted everyone as though we were honored guests. As he entered the room, he made eye contact with me and my husband, immediately walking over to shake our hands and ask how we liked the show. We got a few minutes to speak to him before other guests beckoned, and then he was off chatting and posing for pictures with strangers.
- Under-promise and over-deliver
Tom Peters said it first and it’s been repeated many times in marketing books, blogs, and speeches. I knew very little about Dick Dale before I walked into the concert. I’m a fan of traditional surf guitar, and knowing that Dick Dale was one of its pioneers, I knew I’d have a good time.
But I had no idea just how much fun this show would be. I can’t say anyone under-promised. But they certainly over-delivered. There was one surprise after another.
Each song brought out new talents of the musicians. Each piece was more complex than the last.
I never could have imagined how unique and special this show would turn out to be.
Self-reflection: What more could you give your audience?
Lisa Braithwaite bio:
Lisa Braithwaite is a public speaking coach and trainer, mentoring entrepreneurs to create memorable and engaging presentations in order to build their businesses through speaking.
Before launching her business in 2005, she spent sixteen years developing programs for nonprofits as an advocate and educator.
She has a B.A. in Theater and an M.A. in Education, and has been interviewed for the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Men’s Health, Toastmaster Magazine, and Inc.com. She’s the author of Presenting for Humans: Insights for Speakers on Ditching Perfection and Creating Connection.
Lisa’s philosophy is that public speaking is fun, it’s an awesome way to express yourself creatively, and that connection and engagement are worth more than a thousand techniques.
Leadership Lessons I Learned from Dick Dale
How to be a better public speaker?