Dating Jennifer Garner

Back in my dating years, I occasionally agreed to be set up. I don’t know why I ever said yes. It was awkward knowing I’d eventually receive a dating report card. Then again, there are a lot of things I don’t understand about that stage of my life.

One time I was set up by my friend Kelcy. She gave me the place to be, the time and the woman’s name. Same name as a Hollywood celebrity! I had fun telling everyone “I’m going on a blind date with Jennifer Garner.” It’s the little things.

[Her name wasn’t actually Jennifer Garner. Though I do have a Real Jennifer Garner story. I’ll save that for another time]

I show up early for the date (if my wife is reading this, she’s aghast right now) and choose a table outside. Not Jennifer Garner shows up a few minutes later and we start to chat. We haven’t even ordered drinks and I know it’s not going to work. She seems interesting enough. But it’s just not there.

I don’t know why, but in that moment I decided “you know what? Unless she asks, I’m not going to spend any time talking about myself.”

The whole date becomes me asking things like “then what happened?” or “Oh, that’s interesting, what else did you learn from that experience?” I learn about her childhood, her favorite movie, her opinion on the Oxford comma, and what she does on a day off.

After 60? 90? minutes of this, we finish our drinks. I go the whole night without divulging a thing.

I walk her to the car and give her a hug, saying something like “that was nice.” No need to inquire about a second date. It’s clear this was one and done.

Or so I thought.

Weeks go by. I run into Kelcy – the one who set us up.

“Why didn’t you ever call Jennifer Garner again?”

“Uh, that didn’t seem necessary.”

“Well she said she had an amazing time and couldn’t believe how thoughtful you are. She would have liked a call.”

What did I learn from this? It doesn’t take much to make your audience feel valued.

The same is true in speaking.

All it takes is a little interaction, asking a few questions and being able to reference their pain points. At a base level, that’s what people want.

If it helps, try to include the phrase “I’m trying to put myself in your shoes, and _____” Fill in the blanks the right way and you’ll see head nods. You’ll see people looking you in the eye. You’ll know your audience is with you. That’s the best.


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Metaphorically speaking, a lot of us do the same when we start a speech: we make it all about ourselves. We read our resume to the audience.

Y’all. We don’t need to do that. At best that comes off as braggy; more likely it comes off as insecure. 

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These are stories, hacks, speech critiques and recommendations. I spend an inordinate amount of time writing these.


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