It is no surprise then, that when I said I was going to be doing stand up for charity, people weren’t surprised, thinking I would be like a duck to water and probably have more fun than the audience.
I met Lynne, who is the Founder of Funny Women a month or so ago which is when I also met the other challengers, women who would be delivering a short comedy set to around 100 people a few weeks later. We had to go through a number of training workshops, tasks and practice runs before the big night arrived and given my entrepreneurial nature, my reluctance to take direction from others and serious resistance to being told what to do, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the process. Lynne and the other challengers spoke of how valuable the skills they were developing would be in business, how the act of preparing stand up would help them with their presentation skills, their pitches and even their role as host in team meetings. For me, it was just going to be a bit of fun and an opportunity to feed my ego. I couldn’t see that I would develop skills that I didn’t already have and to be quite honest, was doing the training as a necessity rather than for purpose or experience.
And yet, as I was sat in the front row, with the other challengers, waiting to go on and do my bit, I realised that i had probably learnt more than the rest. As the other challengers delivered their performance, they were confident, they were word perfect and they had the audience in hysterics. ‘Sh*t’, I thought. I wasn’t entirely sure of what I was going to say, I felt utterly unprepared and suddenly I was really, really nervous. Oh yes, I could make a few people laugh with my ridiculous anecdotes and outrageous behaviour but I still had to deliver punch line after punch line to a bunch of people who cared little for my entrepreneurial success, my well established network or my ability to run a few miles for charity. This performance was going to be based purely on the skill of stand up and suddenly as my name was called I realised that each and every task, challenge and conversation I had been subjected to in the weeks previous was essential and I only wished I had taken it all a bit more seriously. I could have nailed it and I could have stolen the show but in reality, I was flying by the seat of my pants and for once, possibly the first time ever, I was happy for the other girls to take centre stage and reap the rewards, they absolutely deserved it and it was a joy to see them beam as they realised they ‘did it’ and they did it, good.
I probably learnt very different lessons to the other challengers but the experience has taught me, more than anything, that comedy can offer something to everyone. It may be, like many of the other challengers that you are keen to learn how to present, how to engage an audience and want to go through a process that will improve your confidence and help you realise that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to.
If you are more like me, the process of doing stand up will help you realise how important it is to listen, how essential it is to observe and understand others and most, it will show you that no man, woman or comedian is an island and for you to really reach your full potential, teamwork, guidance and support are essential.
I was shocked when I heard I was always the risk, and it wasn’t until I was about to take hold of the microphone that I realised why. Unlike the others, who were nervous because of their lack of confidence, I realised Lynne was nervous about me because I had too much confidence. I hadn’t rehearsed, I hadn’t written a script, I hadn’t really given the whole event much thought until right then, until I needed to make nearly 100 people laugh, for five whole minutes. I wondered how many times I had missed out on business deals, opportunities and relationships because I have just been a bit too sure of myself.
Secondly, as I started to frantically think about what I was going to deliver, I realised how valuable the input of the team had been. We had all listened and critiqued one another’s ideas and I had been able to judge from their reactions the strengths and weaknesses of my performance. I remembered each and every conversation I had with Lynne and was incredibly thankful of each member of the funny women team eagerly watching, waiting and supportively smiling and cheering at me as I began to speak. As I started speaking I realised that it was probably one of the only times in my career I had really valued a team, their importance and recognised what could be achieved when you worked with people rather than against people. Again, I wondered how many times I had, in business, missed out on great relationships because I had been competitive rather than collaborative.
Finally, I realised that I don’t always have to be the star of the show. Sometimes, it is just great to give and be unexpectedly surprised by the talent of others. The feeling of genuine pride and admiration of the other challengers and the Funny Women team was truly rewarding and I was genuinely humbled and thankful for the chance and opportunity they had given me. That made me wonder how many times I have overlooked the chances and opportunities I had been presented with because I was too busy or arrogant to stop and think about them.
Whatever it is you may need to learn about yourself, your presentation skills or your humour, Funny Women is a great place to start. For more details on workshops, events and challenges visit www.funnywomen.com