Not in Minnesota anyway.

I was recently working in Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic (How cool is That?!). Ok, so far, no big deal. I landed in Minneapolis and made the drive to Rochester. Again, so far no big deal.

In the middle of the trip between Rochester and Minneapolis — out in the middle of nowhere — I passed a shop called the Cheese Mart which had a big sign outside advertising cheese curds. It struck me as funny (and unlikely) that anybody would stop at this remote store to buy cheese curds.cheese mart sign in minnesota

Fast forward to my keynote at the Mayo Clinic: I made a bunch of jokes about this store. “Who in the world stops at a cheese store in the middle of nowhere?” I asked. “What is the big deal about these silly cheese curds anyhow?”

Well, it turns out that the joke was on me. A huge percentage of the audience had been to this Cheese Mart. They love it. They go there often. The result of my cheese ignorance from stage was fun and funny. Really funny.

I talked to my client after the keynote speech and they told me more about the Cheese Mart. They told me that the cheese curds (which I had never tried) were delicious, and actually squeaked when you eat them. (How weird is that?)

That got me. On the way back to the Minneapolis airport I knew I had to stop. I had to try these squeaky curds.

It was fun to visit the place I had mocked during my keynotes at Mayo. But it gets funnier. In some of my keynotes, including the one at Mayo, I sometimes demonstrate how to use a toy squeaker to play at work. How to make your phone squeak, your shoes squeak, your salad squeak… you get the idea.

So of course when this wonderful Minnesota woman helped me find the “freshest” cheese curds I asked if they really do squeak. “Of course they do, honey!” she said.

cheese curd woman at cheese martSo I reached out with a squeaker hidden in my hand and “made” the bag of curds appear to squeak. It was fun for me, it was fun for the cheese woman. We both laughed.

What’s My Point? I have a couple. If you are a speaker, or if you HIRE a motivational keynote speaker, hire somebody who will customize the keynote with localized humor. The cheese curds and Cheese Mart jokes were some of the best moments of the program. And the use of customized, localized humor helped connect me to the audience and vice versa. And that connection helps the message to stick.

What’s My Other Point? I tell my audiences that if we want to be happy, sometimes we have to take action. Sure, it’s fun to NOTICE that life is fun. But sometimes we have to make an effort to MAKE life fun. And for me, the trip to the cheese store and goofing with the woman who works there was just that … it was fun.
My mood was awesome once I had those darned cheese curds in my passenger seat. Can a Cheese Mart make you happy?

What are the Cheese Marts in YOUR life? What are you going to do today — not watch, not read about….. DO — that will make today fun?

Do you think cheese curds can change your day? Let me know your stories. Comment!

I’m not sure if the best part of being one of the Minnesota speakers is the curds… but it sure was funny.
PS. Check out this fun sign about grapes. Oh, those crazy cheese curd folks! Have a grape day? Get it? Nutty curd people!

grape sign at vinyard.  Isn't this funny?

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One response to “Speakers Shall Not Joke About Cheese Curds”

  1. Dave "The Shef" Sheffield says:

    Brad,
    How true! I am from Rochester originally and you don’t mess with curds! You hit on a really valuable point, customization. When a speaker isn’t willing to invest five minutes to customize their program so the audience feels like they “know” them…that is pure laziness.

    Keep up the great work!

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