Don Draper Says “What?” And 4 Other Lessons

What can Mad Men teach us about expressing ourselves effectively? What does Chris Farley tell us about stage presence? Is there intelligent life down here? Mr. Spock says so.

Nothing sells like video! The webcast of yesterday’s radio show is up and it turned out great. Having video clips, even if audio-only, added a lot of fun to the show. If you don’t want to sit through the webcast, here are five key lessons with the associated clips.

Cut to The Chase (The Fugitive)

I’ve talked about this one before. The original screenplay of the The Fugitive had a lot more dialogue in this scene, but they cut it down to these two lines, which really capture the entire essence of the movie. What makes it great is they don’t insult our intelligence by spoon-feeding us a lot of extra exposition. Simple, clean and effective. Like all writing should be.

Don Draper and the Power of Expression

When people wonder what listening really means in acting, I point to this clip. Even a simple word like “what” can be expressed dozens of different ways. That’s why you always have to be paying attention to your scene partner. The line, “I could kill you” could be said jokingly or threateningly — it’s important to know which, and to respond appropriately. Same goes for life. It’s not just what people say, it’s how they say it.

Mr. Spock, Chief Emotion Officer

Poor Spock has been duped. After a nasty bout of Pon Farr (sort of the Vulcan equivalent of spawning season), he’s killed his captain and best friend in a bout of hormone-fueled fury. Or so he thinks. I won’t spoil it for you. Watch and see. But it’s this spontaneous outpouring of emotion that forever endears audiences to Mr. Spock. So don’t hold it in. Get fired up, get choked up, get a little righteously indignant now and then. Few things are more powerful than emotion for breaking through to a resistant audience and winning them over.

Chris Farley Smells Bad, But You Don’t Have To

(This one’s a little blue and thus slightly NSFW.) One big obstacle to proper communication is the feeling some people have that maybe they’re not ready for prime time. But you don’t need broadcast-level rhetorical skills to make a good impression on an audience. Better to be authentic. Plus some audiences, like engineers and technical types, are actually a little suspicious of people who are too slick. They respect knowledge, and will pay attention to what an expert has to say, almost no matter how they say it. So get on out there … but take a bath first, just in case.

Annie Hall and Employee Engagement

No embed here, unfortunately, — just a link. Employees are of two minds about management. On one hand, they often don’t like or trust the top executives. On the other, they complain they never see them enough. But as with the old ladies in Woody Allen’s story, you’ve got to keep serving them, no matter what they think of the bill of fare. Stay visible, stay connected, keep showing up. They’ll be impressed with your persistence, and may even grow to trust and respect you.

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