Business as Unusual | Brad Montgomery

Business as Unusual

Business as Unusual

by Doug Stevenson


The shift is a staging technique that physically defines the punch line or laugh line (or word) thereby generating a bigger laugh. This is how it works.

Picture yourself facing straight out, front and center, to your audience. Now turn forty-five degrees to the left of center. Deliver the setup to your punch line to the people facing you on the left. After the setup and before delivering the punch line, shift your feet and hips ninety-degrees to the right. You are now facing forty-five degrees to the right of center. Now, deliver the punch line to the people on the right. It’s that simple. By physically shifting your body and your focus from one side to the other, you are separating the setup from the payoff visually and vocally. Visually, your audience sees the transition and vocally, the shift (turn) causes you to syncopate your delivery ever so slightly, thus adding rhythm to your comedic delivery. Try it. You’ll get bigger laughs. Let me know how it works for you.

For more detailed information on adding humor to your stories and presentations, consider purchasing the Story Theater Six-Pack Audio Learning System. For more information go to:




What do you do when you’re scheduled to speak someplace and the whole world gets turned upside down? Many speakers, myself included, found themselves faced with that question the week of September 11th I had just boarded a plane for Kansas City when the announcement came over the intercom that the flight would be delayed at least 90 minutes. We were not told why. When they mentioned that our bags were being taken off the plane and to pick them up at baggage claim, I knew this flight wasn’t going to happen. Inside the airport, I heard the first news about the terrorist attacks. I had an important decision to make. It was 8:10 AM. I was scheduled to speak that night at 7:30 PM. Time was of the essence. If I got in my car and started driving, I could make it in time. If I didn’t drive, I would not be able to fulfill my obligation. I had ten minutes to decide and act, with the information I had available at that time.

I teach customer service. You do whatever it takes to serve the customer. You do what’s right as long as it’s possible.

By 9 AM I was driving east as fast as I could. At 6:45 PM I was at the hotel in Kansas City. During the course of the day, I learned that the event had been rescheduled for the next night. I had a full 24 hours to face my next dilemma: what am I going to talk about? How much do I address the issue at hand? Should I incorporate the drastic events into my keynote on change or should I leave it alone? Every speaker who had a booking the week of September 11th will probably agree with me that it was a difficult decision.

After watching the news all day and feeling emotionally drained, I decided that what my audience needed was the program they hired me to do, not a sermon about injustice. I’m hired for my ability to make a serious point in a humorous way. They wanted my streaking story and my humor and that’s what they got. I did 99% of what I normally do and only mentioned the tragedy once. The client was as pleased as they could be, considering that less than 50% of their people even showed up.

This was a bureau booking. I believe it impressed my bureau that I was willing to drive all day to fulfill my commitment. I also had my office contact all of my other bureaus with a fax to let them know that I was going to be in Kansas City with my own car. If they needed a fill-in speaker in the Midwest, I was available to help. In addition, I had bookings the following Tuesday in Madison, Wisconsin and Wednesday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I had to consider that the airlines might not be up and running that quickly, so I drove from Kansas City to Chicago and spent a few days with my mom before hitting the road and completing the entire trip by car.

I’m not alone in how I handled this crisis. Hundreds, if not thousands of other speakers found creative ways to serve their clients. They drove cars, took trains and busses and when necessary, found a fellow NSA member or speaker buddy to fill in for them. I was lucky. None of my bookings were cancelled and I was able to make it to all of them on time. In this case, it was also fortunate that I planned to fly in the same day, because if I had flown in the day before as I usually do, I would have been stranded in Kansas City without my car. The rest of the trip would have been in jeopardy and I would have had to come up with other creative alternatives. In this instance, everything worked out for the best.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself for the future. The next time there is a crisis that makes it difficult or impossible for you to get to a booking:

* What is the first decision you need to make?

* What is the first phone call you need to make?

* How much time will it take to implement alternate arrangements?

* Who can fill in for you in Florida, Colorado or wherever?

* How far can you drive in 10 hours if you have to?

* What are you willing to do to be a professional?


Copyright 2005 by Doug Stevenson. Reprinted with permission. Doug Stevenson is the creator of the Story Theater Method. He is an author, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. Reach Doug at or 800.573.6196

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