Fresh off a week of orange Gatorade and Gigantosaurus (aka a week of shared Covid with my son), your buddy Mike is back with a look at his favorite day of 2022.
Was it a particularly good date with my wife? Was it the day I got to present at Craft and Commerce? The day Stranger Things 4 came out?
All good guesses. All good days.
But the actual best day was when I got to be Mystery Reader for my son’s preschool class.
The assignment? Choose two books to read. Be on time. Give the teacher 15 minutes of relief.
Some dads might choose the two books on the top of the pile. Not Mike Pacchione! As you might have assumed, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide on the perfect flow of books.
What would hold their interest best? Were there books they’d heard too many times already? What did the other dads read?
My wife had banned me from reading The Pout Pout Fish (more on this later), but everything else was fair game.
I decided to start with a nice, wholesome book, something with a moral.
Then I went with something lesser-known but fun:
The kids laughed at the deep bass in my Mr. Dragon voice. This was fun.
I was told I’d get two books. A third if I was lucky. I looked over at the teacher. Was there time for one more? She smiled a big smile and said yes! I moved on to #3:
I wish to God I’d thought to wear a GoPro to capture the smiles on their faces. Especially when I sang the Bellybutton Song to them. I was feeling it.
Then a strange thing happened. My son, proud as I have ever seen him, stood up, walked over to their little cubby of books + chose another one for me to read. Look how cool my dad is.
Only one problem. He set me up for failure:
Ever read one of these Little Golden Books? They’re a slow forever. Long sentences, longer sentences, too many characters. Huge paragraphs.
Within 13 seconds, all the goodwill I’ve built up is gone. Kids are talking, walking, playing with each other’s ears.
A total sabotage, and by my own son!
This is NOT how Mike Pacchione’s stint as Mystery Reader would end.
Thankfully, I had a backup plan. Just in case, I had grabbed The Pout-Pout Fish on my way out the door. This was destiny.
If ever a 44-year-old man poured his heart into reading The Pout Pout Fish, this was it. I brought a new level of somber to all the pout-pouting.
They loved it. Laughter! Smiles! I was back!
Then my masterpiece. The Blub Blub Blub part. Remember how I said my wife banned me from reading this book to the class? This part was why. My general MO is to hold the last blub for upwards of 45 seconds. You cannot do that in the classroom, she said.
I could see they needed something unexpected. I held the note for as long as I could. You know the expression ROFLMAO? The kids were, quite literally, doing that.
I felt like a freaking superhero. The experience was everything I dreamed of. But only because I was willing to adjust.
It’s funny. In my speaking workshops, I often make a comparison between reading children’s books and presenting. You need to put on your best campfire storyteller voice, I say. Monotone is a missed opportunity.
But it strikes me there’s another reason I should talk about reading children’s books. Because if you’re trying to serve your audience, you’ll adjust to them.
To be clear, adjusting to your corporate audience should not involve holding a note for 45 seconds. Don’t do that. Your audience will think you’re weird.
But adjusting to your audience should involve things like:
• Suddenly changing your rate of speech
• Turning the volume DOWN or UP
• Walking in the direction of a disruptive audience member
• If you’re leading a workshop and the audience seems tired: provide an unscheduled break
• Telling an impromptu story
Most people won’t adjust to the audience. It’s a lot safer to stick to the script. But the great ones – the ones who are genuinely trying to help the audience – they’re the ones who will take the chance. And that chance will make all the difference.
It’s worth it.
Until next time, friends, speak well
Eastern Pennsylvania Nomination, Mystery Reader of the Year