As Chris and I watched the Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood Live Christmas concert, I was captivated by the passion expressed in Garth’s performance in particular. I remember having a similar experience when I watched him perform the night he accepted The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
When he played it was as if he was living the music. The expressions on his face, the movement of his body, and the connection with the words and chords was mesmerizing. It is pure passion.
Real estate agents often ask me how they can become more effective presenters. To answer this question, I honestly believe we could all take a lesson from Garth. Whether you are sitting across the table from a home buyer or seller, standing in front of a room full of seminar attendees, or sharing your knowledge through a zoom webinar, connection is crucial!
Connection: What does it mean to connect and how is it done?
Let’s first take a look at Garth Brooks and his passion for not only his music, but the people who show up to hear him play it. He isn’t simply a guitarist strumming a few chords and singing along to sheet music. He is a songwriter, artist, and musician. He lives into his work. Be breathes life into it. He feels it.
Not only does he feel it himself, his passion when sharing it is what helps the audience feel it too. The expression of his music, whether singing uplifting familiar Christmas carols or stories about having been in low places, he gets into the song … he lives it. It’s as if you can see him walking through the story… in the snow, at the wedding reception, standing in the driveway while the thunder rolls.
So, you may be wondering, how can I possibly live into my listing presentation? How can I express my words with the passion of Garth Brooks when I am delivering a seminar on downsizing or selling a house as-is? Well, you can, but only if you are as passionate about your topic and as committed to helping your audience as Garth is about his music and the people who listen to it.
Passion for your work, your message, and your mission are key. If you are simply doing what you do as a means to an end (a.k.a. paycheck or commission), then you will not be able to muster any kind of authentic excitement or enthusiasm. You could definitely be “good” at what you do, but you won’t be great. You may be effective, but you won’t likely reach the heights of your field.
Empathy and rapport: What is empathy and how does it impact rapport?
One of the things that sets Garth Brooks apart from most other entertainers is his ability to create rapport. Many entertainers are excellent performers. They put on a good show. In fact, if you go way back to Garth’s early years, you would say he was an excellent performer. He always has been. What I have noticed in the most recent years in watching Garth re-emerge in the country music world (after his long hiatus when he was focused on parenting) is a much more personal approach. We saw him in Las Vegas several years ago when he first came back and did a regular show there. It was a relatively small theatre (compared to the massive arenas he had sold out for multiple decades) where he performed solo – just him and his acoustic guitar. As he played, he told stories. Stories about where the songs originated, the chords and choruses, and the people he encountered along the way. He chuckled as he recalled the early years and he lamented some of the lessons learned. Then he took questions from the audience. He asked us what WE wanted to know. No rules. No scripts. Just us and him. It was intimate.
Of course, those of you who know me know that I was one of the first to raise my hand. I could feel Chris tense up beside me as he considered what I may be bold enough to ask. I simply wanted to know what it was like going from playing at the Tumbleweed in Stillwater, OK to being where he was now – a celebrity.
While I honestly cannot remember the answer he gave, I remember how I felt in that moment. I felt connected. I felt his humanness. I no longer saw a celebrity on the stage, I saw and heard a fellow human being…someone with kids, a wife, an ex-wife, a mom and dad, and a career that had evolved from nothing. He has a past, a present, and just like all of us, an unrealized and uncertain future. If you really want to see empathy at its finest, check out this clip of Garth’s concert where he connected with an audience member during his song, “The Dance,” The woman was going through cancer treatments and had a sign that said, “Chemo this morning and Garth tonight.” Big auditorium. Big audience. But even bigger heart!
When we, as real estate professionals, can get out of our heads and set our egos and agendas aside, and simply BE with our prospective clients and seminar attendees, we can connect with them. Having empathy is about trying to live in the shoes of the other person. It’s about feeling. It’s about recognizing that we are all the same. We all have fears and we all have stories. We have baggage and we have successes we cherish. Most importantly, we need each other.
The thing is, while clients may need us to be competent and capable real estate sales professionals, they also need us to see them as individuals. Instead of thinking of them as an address, a transaction, a lead, or a piece of business, they want to be seen as human – as people.
Vulnerability and authenticity: Listening to what isn’t being said
One of the things I love most about Garth Brooks is that he is real with his audience. In watching the Christmas show this year, a few things stood out to me that may not have been as evident to others. I tend to look at these things differently than many people I talk to. I’m really not even listening terribly close to the lyrics. It’s funny because Chris watches the same shows and we both see and hear and experience different things. For instance, he pays attention to how many cameras are set up and where they are positioned. He’s watching for production related issues and I am closely observing the presentation style and interactions between people. Right brain and left brain, sitting right next to each other. Same show – completely different experiences.
OK…Back to vulnerability and authenticity. Here is what stood out to me:
Body language. You can literally see Garth leaning into the music. While Trisha has a beautiful voice and is undoubtedly talented in her own right, she is a singer. She sings. Garth performs. Everything about his being is engaged in the music, from his head to his toes.
Vulnerability. In a live performance, the presenter must be willing to take risks, be in the moment, and to mess up. Maybe even cry when moved to tears as Garth was during his full performance of Belleau Wood. Yes, crying is not only OK, it reflects your willingness to be vulnerable and human.
They also received a request from a 9-year-old and with only about 60 seconds before a commercial break, Garth decides to sing Frosty the Snowman. Both he and Trisha gave it their best shot, but it became evident they didn’t know all the words to all the versus. So, what did they do? They hummed their way through it. They chuckled a bit, tried to put it together, but in the end, it was the effort that was applauded. They kept it light, didn’t take themselves too seriously, and gave that 9-year-old a holiday treat. Imperfect. Genuine. Real. (Just like Frosty!).
Humility. Let me say that while everyone seems to think that Oklahoma is small and everyone knows each other, I don’t know Garth or Trisha personally. Maybe someday I will bump into them at a local Wal-Mart, but for now, we are simply fellow Okies. (Yes, I know they live in Nashville now, but Garth will always be an Okie to me). That said, I think Garth and Trisha are people that one could easily sit down with and have a normal conversation. I don’t think they see themselves as celebrities – or if they do, they certainly don’t present themselves that way.
It’s funny to me that even for the Christmas performance, Garth is wearing a ball cap, what look like Dickies work pants, and a pair of boots guys wear when out feeding the hogs. In fact, for all I know, he came in from the barn and grabbed his guitar and went to work. Trisha was, as always, dressed in a classy but casual outfit. But it’s not just their clothes. It’s how they spoke to one another and to their team of two in the room. It’s their casual style. It’s how Trisha gave Garth the floor when a song was clearly his and how he made certain that she got to share the stage and shine as well. It is clear he adores her and that she has tremendous respect and love for him. It’s a partnership. Neither one needed all the spotlight.
Food for thought
As you look in the mirror and as you prepare for your next presentation, take a look at where you might be able to improve.
- Do you need to open up more and allow yourself to be vulnerable?
- Are you ‘OK’ with making mistakes or improvising when necessary?
- Might you need to dig a little deeper and reconnect with WHY you do what you do?
- Are you connecting with people at a human level or are you simply following a script?
- Does your body language communicate the message you are trying to send?
- Are you being authentically you or are you trying to be someone else?
One last idea for you as you work toward being the best presenter you can be. Watch other presenters with whom you feel a connection. Maybe Garth just doesn’t do it for you. That’s ok. Look on YouTube for the performers you love most. Ask yourself why you are attracted to them. Look beyond the music, the act, or the message. What are you EXPERIENCING as you observe them. What’s the “it” that makes them stand out. Maybe it’s yours too!