See Part 1 of Pick a Verb, if you haven’t already started there.
So, you’ve found some evocative, immediate, playable JUICY verbs to keep you focused and present during your scene, or song, or speech. But don’t get slack, cuz remember it aint about you. It’s about your audience.
What do you want your AUDIENCE to do?
In our Play Ball metaphor, the audience is the target. It doesn’t matter if your ball is gorgeous and your throw is godlike; you still lose if it doesn’t actually hit the target. So, what does it look like when your ball hits the target, the communication succeeds, and the message resonates with the audience?
[Sidenote: Romantics will balk, saying that a real artist doesn’t care what his audience thinks. I say to those romantics: you’re confusing ‘artist’ with ‘asshole’.]
For an actor doing dialog in a scene, the “audience” is rarely the actual audience. For my acting student in his Chekhov scene, his audience is actually Anya, the other character in the scene with him. When I ask him “what do you want your audience to do?”, his answer could be,
“I want her to lean in to me for a kiss,” or
“I want her to sigh after me as I pull away”, or maybe
“I want her to cower”, or
“I want her to tell her family how brilliant I am.”
Here’s where finding the verb becomes a little bit magical: technically, as soon as he begins to clarify what he wants to see her do, his eye contact immediately improves. I didn’t have to say “wow, your eye contact is really fake looking”. It fixed itself. As he puts the focus off himself and on to her, that also improves his listening, body language, pacing and sense of present moment spontaneity, too – even when there’s no real actor there playing Anya. Verbs really ARE what’s happening*.
It’s a little different for direct-address speakers and presenters.
Oddly, when I ask them the question “what do you want the audience to do?”, their first answer is often dishwater weak, like “I want my audience to learn that….” Or “I want my audience to realize that…”
Try again, and think juicy – sensory, specific, immediate. Bottom line. What do you want them to DO?
I want my audience to… look at me attentively?
Meh. Too small.
I want them to …. applaud me loudly?
Inner caveman wants that, but that can’t be the real bottom line.
I want them to download my sample software.
Yes, better. When?
When they leave this room… or how about before they leave the room!
Yup, now you’re getting it. Action verbs are stronger, and even measurable, and business leaders love measurables.
But what if the desired result isn’t quite as measurable as “number of downloads”? Can we still create a powerful one-two punch of juicy verbs, that have real consequences? Potent AND Provable?
Sure, how about, “I want to put a huge crack in their reliance on old methods, so they can’t do their jobs the old way even one more day without squinting and pursing their lips”. And we shorten that to
- I want to CRACK their windshield.
- I want them to SQUINT at the old stuff, and LUST AFTER my new stuff.
When? By the end of this talk, when I show them examples of old and new again.
Juicy verbs like these help us get more creative about tactics and content, more physically involved, more streamlined, more spontaneous, and more aware of actually watching the audience, to see if we’re really succeeding.
And that’s the kicker. Cuz we might not.
That’s one reason that people sometimes choose vague, wishy-washy verbs instead of potent and provable verbs: it seems safer. Maybe I succeeded, maybe I didn’t, but I’ll just imagine I did, right?
Picking a potent and provable verb means I confront the possibility of failure. And if I really fail, I might have to change something. So yeah, that’s scary.
But sometimes my verb needs to be “Fuck it.”
*I have the whole Schoolhouse Rock Collection. It holds up well.