Here’s the full text of a piece I wrote for The Magazine a few months ago. I really enjoyed writing it, and would like to thank Marco once again for publishing it there. If you haven’t checked out The Magazine yet, you should. Anyway, here’s why you’re a total snooze:
Everything was going great until you showed up. You see me across the crowded room, make your way over, and start talking at me. And you don’t stop.
You are a Democrat, an outspoken atheist, and a foodie. You like to say “Science!” in a weird, self-congratulatory way. You wear jeans during the day, and fancy jeans at night. You listen to music featuring wispy lady vocals and electronic bloop-bloops.
You really like coffee, except for Starbucks, which is the worst. No wait—Coke is the worst! Unless it’s Mexican Coke, in which case it’s the best.
Pixar. Kitty cats. Uniqlo. Bourbon. Steel-cut oats. Comic books. Obama. Fancy burgers.
You listen to the same five podcasts and read the same seven blogs as all your pals. You stay up late on Twitter making hashtagged jokes about the event that everyone has decided will be the event about which everyone jokes today. You love to send withering @ messages to people like Rush Limbaugh—of course, those notes are not meant for their ostensible recipients, but for your friends, who will chuckle and retweet your savage wit.
You are boring. So, so boring.
Don’t take it too hard. We’re all boring. At best, we’re recovering bores. Each day offers a hundred ways for us to bore the crap out of the folks with whom we live, work, and drink. And on the internet, you’re able to bore thousands of people at once.1
A few years ago, I had a job that involved listening to a ton of podcasts. It’s possible that I’ve heard more podcasts than anyone else—I listened to at least a little bit of tens of thousands of shows. Of course, the vast majority were so bad I’d often wish microphones could be sold only to licensed users. But I did learn how to tell very quickly whether someone was interesting or not.
The people who were interesting told good stories. They were also inquisitive: willing to work to expand their social and intellectual range. Most important, interesting people were also the best listeners. They knew when to ask questions. This was the set of people whose shows I would subscribe to, whose writing I would seek out, and whose friendship I would crave. In other words, those people were the opposite of boring.
Here are the three things they taught me.
Ed Wood 2: Edward Woodward.. . .
I get a lot of notes from people who are starting out doing speaking gigs for money. It’s something I’ve done a fair number of times, and I know how hard it can be to get it right. Not just at first, but really for as long as you choose to do it.
Personally, the speaking stuff is far from difficult for me; but, pretty much everything before and after the gig can be nothing short of a black art.
So, while this thing started as a short email to a friend asking for advice—what the heck. In the interest of saving myself some future typing—and maybe potentially helping people learn what I wish I’d known starting out—here’s one fella’s incredibly opinionated guide to getting a smarter start in speaking for dough.