Posts Tagged ‘The Carlyle Group’

How to Connect with Your Audience When You’re Famous

clear empty podiumNear the end of 2012, I was lucky enough to attend two events where the featured speaker did a masterful job of connecting with his audience despite a major obstacle: fame. Both of the speakers — former Senator George Mitchell and David Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group – were much better known and more powerful than anyone in their audience. But both managed to break the ice and get the audience to identify with them, by using some clever self-deprecating humor.

Mitchell spoke to a small group at an event sponsored by TiE DC, a Washington DC area networking group. Mitchell has had a remarkably distinguished career, serving as Senate Majority Leader, leading negotiations on the Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland, winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom, being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, etc. He didn’t start off by reviewing his historic deeds, however. Instead he began by telling a charming story about how he was brought back down to earth at a book signing. After a woman had Mitchell sign a copy of her book, she looked at his signature and said, “Hey, wait a minute! You’re not Henry Kissinger.”

Rubinstein spoke to a much larger audience, several hundred people at an event sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.  In 2011, Forbes put his net worth at a cool $2.8 billion. But the billionaire connected with those of us in the lower 99% by telling several stories about his early career mistakes and setbacks: politicians he worked for lost elections, his work in the Carter Administration “caused” high inflation, no one at his law firm asked him to stay on when he told them he was leaving, etc.

Thanks to their adroit use of humor at the start of their remarks, both speakers charmed and disarmed their audiences. They made listeners feel that we that we were part of a discussion among friends, instead of members of an anonymous group receiving wisdom from on high.