Five Things Speakers Can Learn from Bruce SpringsteenBy Gini Dietrich

This past weekend, I was chatting with Liana Miller in Slack (my most favorite tool ever!) about the Taylor Swift concert she’d just taken her daughter to see.

We were talking about Taylor being the master at audience engagement. She said every, single person got wrist bands that light up and interact with the music. She thought the technology was cool and fun, but didn’t realize there was another use for it.

Taylor said:

I like to see everyone at the concert. This is my way of seeing each and every one of you. When you are dancing, when you are moving, and when you are listening.

And she engaged with the fans…because she could see them.

It’s no secret that I think she is the master at not just audience engagement, but at doing her own PR.

Five Things Speakers Can Learn from Bruce Springsteen

This led us to how much Liana likes to use audience engagement of rock stars as examples of great PR…and to a blog post she wrote a couple of years ago about Bruce Springsteen called, The Boss of Engagement.

I read the post and immediately thought, “Wow. This is great for speakers, t00!”

And then I asked Liana if I could use it in a blog post and here we are.

If you speak—as a paid keynoter, present to clients, present in front of a board or executive team, do any business development, or lead team meetings—this is for you.

(Pretty much this is for anyone who speaks to more than one person at any given time. So read on.)

  1. Extreme Presence. Liana says, “It’s no surprise to hear that, while playing before tens of thousands, Springsteen strives for moments of extreme presence. It culminates with the audience feeling that there is no other concert or audience more important than the one happening that night.” If you’ve ever seen Bill Clinton speak (no matter your politics), you know he also has this quality. It’s about making every, single individual feel as if you are speaking directly to them. Of course, it’s easier in smaller groups, but in larger groups, there are tricks of the trade. Start by looking at audience members in the lower lefthand corner of the room. Stay there for a few minutes. Then move to the middle lefthand corner. Then the upper lefthand corner. Keep doing this until you’ve been speaking to each individual…and then start again. It takes some practice, but it works.
  2. The Mental Lean In. Liana says, “Springsteen has described “the mental lean in” he seeks to create with the audience. It’s about creating the rebirth of moments that might not have occurred the night before.” Many speakers use the same material over and over again. I understand why that’s done because you get really smart about a topic and can think on your feet. But it also makes you stale. Work to achieve something new in every presentation, even if it’s just new statistics or a new case study. Give them something no other audience has seen or heard from you.
  3. Relevance. Liana says, “A fundamental challenge in playing the same music night after night after night is staying relevant—to the audience, as well as to the music being played.” This goes hand-in-hand with the mental lean-in. Trust me, you get bored with the same topic if you don’t keep it fresh. In my Spin Sucks keynote speech, I used to talk about the miraculous PR team behind Miley Cyrus (it also creates some heavy emotion in the audience because people either really love her or really hate her). I’ve since switched up that opening to other performers to stay relevant and in tune with today’s pop culture…not that of two years ago.
  4. Sustaining. Liana says, “Springsteen has said the challenge is not only creating the “moments,” but also sustaining them. His own secret sauce for sustaining the moment is creating the feeling among the band and the audience that you really are not sure what is going to come next. It’s the unexpected—but in a controlled, extremely present, relevant sort of way.” Have you ever attended a conference where you see and hear the same speakers and they present the same material you’ve seen more than once? I know I have. Even though Springsteen clearly has a set list, you don’t know what he’s going to play next. Speakers can do that, too. Even though you have a set presentation and set script, give your audience the unexpected.
  5. The Ultimate: In Concert. Liana says, “Bruce describes the ultimate concert as the moment when he, the band, and the audience literally move in on themselves—the “in concert” moment.” This is when the four described above come together. When your audience is so in tuned with what you have to say, they scramble to fill out a survey and provide you with glorious feedback. They hire you on the spot. Or you get that promotion or raise. Or you gain consensus among your team. Whatever it happens to be, you have created that “in concert” moment.

When it comes down to it, the gist of all of this is that you are present, you are relevant, your storytelling at the end of your speech is as good as the beginning, and you are paying attention to every, single audience member in some way.

How can you implement these five Springsteen tips in your next presentation?

image credit: Brian Patterson Photos/Shutterstock

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich