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How To Connect To Your Audience (Even After You’re Dead)

No matter how powerful, smart, inspiring, or hilarious your Message is— it’s ineffective if no one is listening. As a performer and business owner, your relationship to your audience is everything. It doesn’t matter whether that audience consists of clients, customers, web surfers, or even someone looking at your grave – if no one pays attention, do you really exist?
Just last week, at my NYC “Message of You” Workshop, I asked the participants to share the Message they would want on their gravestones. Your “Message” is your life’s logline— a combo of who you are and who’s on the receiving end (mourners, grave diggers, clergy, lovers who don’t want to spring for a room). At first, my students hesitated, awkwardly trying to figure out what they might say. Some chose the “keep on laughing” route, though no one said, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” A popular Message was “Care about others!” These are fine, if you want your Message to sound like a Hallmark card. 
So how do we come up with a global Message that inspires others while keeping our individuality? Walk through a Jewish cemetery and you might think the Message is already carved into the stone; they’re all the same. While trying to find my mother’s grave, I stopped seven times as I read, “Beloved wife, mother, daughter.”  Jewish cemeteries are notorious for having a pretty uniform layout and it’s not like you can say ‘turn right at the mausoleum and a left at the 6 foot statue of Jesus’. As I walked around and read what was on the gravestones, I wondered how everyone was beloved when we know what really happens at Seders. Missing was the humor, the last dig at your spouse, the sharp retort to the Buddinsky sister-in-law. Your stone is your closing number, summing it all up, an eternal Facebook page. Your life is your Message. If ever there was a place to put “The Message of You,” it’s on your gravestone!
How do you find that inspiring Message? The pithy wrap up? Your Martin Luther King Jr. moment?…  Writing a great tombstone is just like preparing a terrific speech. You should shape your personal Message while empathizing with your audience. It’s safe to assume those in a graveyard might be in a down mood, not dissimilar from a corporate audience. So, write your Message keeping in mind the audience. 
Given this, “It’s about them” philosophy, my students started formulating powerfully transforming Messages, creating gravestones that will be wake-up calls long after they are dead. 
Some of my favorites:
“I’m laying down but you’re standing up. Make something of yourself.”
“I told you I wasn’t feeling well. Don’t ignore that pain!” 
Mine was: “What are you looking at? You’re gonna be here one day. Get out of this graveyard and live!” 
Getting to take off with something like that makes dying -- to die for.  
You don’t have to put it in stone, but what would your stone say?

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Judy's Blog

Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.