Storytelling: Vulnerability and the Courage to Talk About Failure.
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Communication lessons from Frank Sinatra, 1963

The legendary Frank Sinatra (1915–1998) can teach us a thing or two about engaging an audience. I stumbled upon this 1963 Playboy interview with Sinatra recently, and it's pure gold. "When I sing, I believe," says Sinatra. "I’m honest. If you want to get an audience with you, there’s only one way. You have to reach out to them with total honesty and humility." Whether we're talking about an entertainer or about life in general, you can't be indifferent, Frank says. People do not connect with indifference. "This isn’t a grandstand play on my part; I’ve discovered—and you can see it in other entertainers—when they don’t reach out to the audience, nothing happens."

Keynote slide (click for larger view).

Playboy asks Sinatra why he thinks he has been so successful. Is it his vocal range, his styling, his phrasing? To what does he attribute his success? "I think it’s because I get an audience involved, personally involved in a song—because I’m involved myself." Audiences connect with authenticity, and the way to show your authenticity is to be willing to be vulnerable and honest with your audience.

Simple, direct, and honest
This clip below is a great example of what Sinatra was talking about in the interview. This song is from a June 20th, 1965 special called Frank Sinatra's Spectacular, featuring Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and hosted by Johnny Carson. Damn, this is good. Frank Sinatra is singing live while his friends Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. (and Frank's daughter) are ribbing him off stage. As this clip shows, audiences will have a great time if you have a great time (and are giving something to them worth sharing). I love Sinatra's cool reactions to the banter and his subtle phrasing. They do not make ’em like this anymore.



Clemence Lepers

Frank Sinatra, popularized the lyrics from the song New York, New York: “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere…”.

This phrase perfectly shows that if you just have one BIG example, your audience will assume that you can take care of their needs without question.

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