Admit it. How many of you got dragged into the virtual presentation world, kicking and screaming? How many of you had nightmares of sweat dripping down your forehead one minute before the green light came on in front of a virtual roomful of clients? How many of you felt like Dave from Space Odyssey 2001?
“HAL, open the pod bay doors!!”
“I’m sorry Judy, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“All right, HAL. I’ll go in through the emergency airlock.”
“Without your space helmet, Judy, you’re going to find that rather difficult.”
Okay, so maybe this was my imagination going overboard.
For the past few years, I have been encouraged by friends and clients to do more video presentations. As a comedian and motivational speaker, I have always enjoyed live presentations and conferences.
In the past, I had been speaking and coaching virtually with some of my clients but then COVID hit. The game changed overnight. There wasn’t an option to do conferences or comedy shows.
So, like many, I was forced to make a choice. Wait it out or go all-in virtually.
I have to admit, the idea of speaking into a green light for an hour was a bit daunting. It was so different. However, I took a lot of inspiration from my two sisters. One is a speech-language pathologist and the other is an elementary school teacher. I was impressed with how they both learned the new technology necessary for their work and adapted, almost overnight. They had never done virtual presentations before. They were motivated by their young students and clients who really needed them to step up.
I don’t think people give themselves enough credit for making such a huge shift in such a relatively short time. They beat themselves up for not ‘getting it’. Luckily, both of my sisters were able to lean on their teenagers to help them navigate the new information asteroid fields. I’m sure there were some eye-rolling and gum-smacking along the way, but those little astronauts stepped up too.
I was proud of my nieces and nephews. All those years spent on Snapchat and Tik Tok (or Tic Tac, as my dad calls it) finally paid off.
So, if my sisters could step up for those that virtually needed them, then so could I.
During my first mission right after COVID, I talked to the green light for an hour and then I said goodbye. The green light went out.
It was just me alone in my pod.
I had no idea how the presentation went over.
It was only afterward when I received some nice comments from the organizers and participants via email and LinkedIn, that I knew that the presentation was a hit. Phew.
My next few presentations were via WebEx. Although WebEx isn’t as user friendly as Zoom, it is apparently more secure and as a result, a common choice for various businesses. Also, if it was good enough for guests on CNN then heck, I thought, it should be good enough for me. I may not be as political or incendiary as some of those talking heads but I bet I could still make Don Lemon laugh.
Since then, the platforms have changed but the work itself remains the same. Whether you are talking into a green light or a roomful of people, be yourself, tell your story, don’t be a HAL, be human and make sure you don’t have any space food on your face.
We’re all on the same ship together. It’s a new world but let’s travel safely.
Don’t get rattled. As HAL might suggest, “Look, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.”
At the beginning of 2020, I decided that I was going to make twelve resolutions (one per month) instead of one big resolution at the beginning of the year that ran the risk of fizzling out by January 3rd.
In January and February, I got a couple of good things done. Then Covid-19 struck and suddenly, like everyone else, I waited and wondered, ‘What was going to happen next?’
After a few months though, something rather unexpected happened. Creativity kicked in. I probably should have panicked more but, instead, I took a deep breath and I started to write.
I started working again on jokes and writing projects that I had put off for years.
There must have been something in the air because so many people that I knew felt the same way. They were writing. They were creating. They wanted to collaborate.
Since the beginning of time, creativity and stress seem to have gone hand in hand.
When the cavemen heard an unknown noise outside of their cave, naturally their first reaction would have been fear. However, when the dreaded monster turned out to be tiny creature instead, everybody probably laughed out of relief.
Research shows that when something is incongruous to our regular brain patterns, our reaction is sometimes laughter.
When a punchline zigs instead of zags, we laugh!
Take my wife. Please. Hilarious.
Sometimes we smile, sometimes we laugh hysterically, sometimes we cry AND laugh.
It’s like watching an episode of Ricky Gervais’ brilliant dramedy called After Life.
Half the time we don’t know if we are laughing or crying.
When we face the unknown, we sometimes laugh.
Covid-19 is unknown. We don’t have a cure. Add that to global warming, pollution, protests, unemployment, Trump and never-ending Zoom calls and you’ve got a real comedy extravaganza (NOT). Over the past four months, I’ve had snickers, cry-laughs, belly laughs and laughs so maniacal that I’m surprised someone didn’t slap me across the face.
No, not everything is funny. In fact, right now, some things are pretty damn terrifying.
But if we want to keep moving forward for ourselves and others, if we want to help, if we want to contribute, then we have to stay engaged. The best way of ensuring THAT happens is by keeping our right, bright, creative, brain happy. Yes, 2020, we’re mad as hell and we’re going to type, write, sing, dance, joke, paint and perform about it!
I know I might not be the next Tina Fey, Carrie Fisher or Nora Ephron.
In fact, I’m probably a few lines away from ‘All work, no play makes Jude a dull girl’.
And that’s okay because I’ve always maintained that I would rather pee my pants laughing than pee my pants from fear.
At the beginning of this year, I committed to making 12 resolutions – one per month.
Then Coronavirus struck. I actually managed to keep up my monthly goals but suddenly, it seemed more important to replace a regular list of ‘things to do’ with ‘things that were getting me through’ a global pandemic.
One of my pandemic survival ‘go to’ tools has been carving out a new routine. Part of my new daily routine includes an evening tradition of banging pots with my neighbours.
There’s a regular gang of us who step out every night for two minutes at 7:30 pm to bang pots, pans, drums and whatever other loud utensils we can get our hands on. You would think that, after all these weeks we would be able to take our show on the road. No, we are NOT perfect (in fact, some nights we are probably ear- shatteringly awful) but, like many other neighbourhoods across the globe, it is our small token of appreciation for all the front-line workers who are doing their best to keep us safe from Covid19.
I have to admit that there have been times, as I was banging my pot, I was thinking, “What does it really matter? We’re not close enough to a hospital for staff or patients to actually hear us.”
However, I suddenly just found out last night that a nurse, a couple of doctors and a former medical scientist live on my street. By now you’re thinking, “Wow, Jude -way to really get to know your neighbours! Way to socialize!”
Or maybe you’re thinking, “Who the hell let you onto that street??”
Look, I probably still don’t know most of my neighbours’ names (but if they have a cat or a dog, I probably know THEIR names).
The point is, we are all in this together. We all contribute something. Big or small.
Thank you to the front-line workers and all of the workers on all of our streets for keeping us safe.
As comedian Chris Rock says, “When you’re in a band, you have roles that you play in the band. Sometimes, you sing lead. And sometimes, you’re on tambourine. And if you’re on tambourine, play it right. Play it with a fuckin’ smile, because no one wants to see a mad tambourine player.”
I’m going to start playing my Teflon fry pan with a great big smile.