Tag Archive: Jerry Seinfeld


“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” — Jerry Seinfeld

It was a Funeral for a Friend.

To be more precise, it was a service celebrating the life of my best man and my BFF.

John Newhouse moved into heaven at 62-years-young.The world would be a better place if there were more John Newhouses. Alas he was taken from us way too soon.

The author of Almost DailyBrett was honored to deliver the third of four eulogies June 30.

Having long ago conquered Glossophobia, which hails from the Greek γλῶσσα glōssa, meaning tongue, and φόβος phobos, fear or dread, delivering a eulogy was still an unprecedented, daunting challenge. The emotion cannot be minimized. The semantic issues are real. Even the best orators are confronted by the strictures of the eulogy.

If the family requests a three-minute eulogy that does not mean you should double or triple that amount of time. As Carly Simon sang: “You probably think this song is about you.” It’s not. Time your presentation. Stick to the written script. Work on your transitions, timing and eye contract.

As an assistant professor, a PowerPoint, a laser pointer and a clicker are de-rigueur standard tools of the trade. Using the Steve Jobs technique, each slide is a prompt, making speaking notes superfluous. Alas, there are no PowerPoints or Prezis for presenting the eulogy.

Speaking extemporaneously or winging it is not an option. Don’t go there. The eulogy needs to be just right. Standing behind the podium and mentally searching for the right words at the right time in the presence of the audience can very well lead to an embarrassing rhetorical train wreck.

And yet even with a tight script, the English language simply will not rise to the occasion. Nonetheless, there must be chosen words and they may not be perfect – that’s not possible – but still they must describe my best friend for 41 years.

Borrowing from another tongue, the Latin words of the U.S. Marine Corps motto — Semper Fidelis/ Semper Fi (always faithful) — spoke to the character of John Newhouse.

Regardless of his given cause/affinity, John was always loyal: The Spirit of Troy, The Los Angeles Dodgers, our USC Fraternity Phi Kappa Tau, his fellow Rotarians, his youth baseball teams … and most of all his family.

Looking into the collective eyes of his grieving family and recounting John’s unshakeable commitment to his two sons regardless of the circumstances, and how he treasured his wife and instinctively knew he overachieved in marriage, is a testament to why the phrase Semper Fi is appropriate.

Even though the author of Almost DailyBrett endured 12 years of parochial school with its sentence diagrams and the petty tyranny of the nuns and priests, the question comes whether it is kosher to add a Biblical verse 1 Corinthians near the conclusion of a church eulogy.

“Love is patient. Love is kind … “seemed to work for this setting. John was patient, did not keep score (except at a baseball game), always protected, always trusted. Yes, 1 Corinthians did the job.

As the clock clicked past three minutes, it was time for the close and a promise to share a microbrew together, if your author ever makes it to the pearly gates.

There are a myriad of challenges that each one of us will face in life. We will do better with some than others. Crafting and properly delivering the eulogy is one of them. With proper preparation, an understanding the English language will not cut it, and with a confidence the words will make the mark, then it will be time to go forward to remember, celebrate and pay proper respects to a departed colleague, friend or dear family member.

“Love Never Fails.”

John Robert Newhouse: A Celebration of Life

“John Newhouse was my best man.

“John Newhouse was my best friend … forever.

“He was everyone’s friend.

“He was my fraternity brother … and a fraternity brother to several in this room.

“He was the kindest person I ever knew.

“John Newhouse loved the world, and was a renowned traveler.

“My grandfather told me there were two places he never wanted to go.

“One was hell. The other was Russia.

“John and I went ‘Back to the USSR’ during the height of the Cold War in 1981.

“More than a few thought we were crazy, and they were right.

“When one talked about going to The Evil Empire it was not to-and-from, but in-and-out.

“John saw Moscow, Leningrad and the Baltic States as just another adventure.

“We did come out of Russia. We came back to America.

“John literally visited every continent on the planet, and was always looking forward to his next road trip. Wendy knows this undeniable fact oh-too-well.

“Speaking about the world, we can all say ex cathedra, our planet is a better place because of John Newhouse.

“When celebrating a life of someone so special that ended way too early, the world’s Lingua Franca, the English language, simply fails us.

“The U.S. Marine Corps adopted from the Latin, Semper Fidelis or Semper Fi as its motto. Translated it means: ‘Always faithful.’”

“There are many virtues about John, but his passionate loyalty to the Spirit of Troy, his devotion to his beloved Los Angeles Dodgers, his commitment to his fraternity bros, his service with his fellow Rotarians, but most importantly his faithfulness to his family, stand out when one contemplates what made John Newhouse just so special.

“John Jr. and Scott. Let’s face it: From time-to-time, you drove him insane. Nonetheless he was proud of each of you, and he literally would do anything in his power to make your lives the best they could be.

“Wendy, you were always a miracle in John’s eyes. He was so proud to have you on his arm. He loved you dearly. I can state with impunity he was always Semper Fi when it came to you and your 33-years of marital bliss. He instinctively knew that he overachieved in marriage and he treasured your union every day.

“Considering that we are celebrating the life of John Robert Newhouse in a house of God, there are lines of scripture that seem just right in depicting why John was a gift to all of us. They come from 1 Corinthians:

“Love is patient, love is kind.

“It does not envy. It does not boast.

“It is not proud.

“It is not rude. It is not self-seeking.

“It is not easily angered.

“It keeps no record of wrongs.

“Love does not delight in evil.

“But rejoices with the truth.

“It always protects, always trusts.

“Always hopes. Always perseveres.

“Love never fails.”

“John, I love you. Your family loves you. Your wonderful spouse loves you. Everyone here will always love you.

 

“And on a personal note as your best man, John: If I am good enough to enter those pearly gates to join you in eternity, the first microbrew is on me.”

 

 

 

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“…At a funeral, most people would rather be the guy in the coffin than have to stand up and give the eulogy.” – Comedian Jerry Seinfeld

Let’s shelve the cure for Gymnophobia for another day. That subject is simply unbareable.david

nervousspeaker

Besides since Almost DailyBrett is more oriented toward strategic communications, a focus on the fear of public speaking, Glossophobia, is more in keeping with this family oriented blog.

First there is an admission that I need to make. I used to have a pretty serious stutter or stammer, if you wish. Yep, the kind that wins you an Academy Award for Best Picture as in The King’s Speech. While there has been tremendous attention on George VI’s affliction, only those closest to me knew that I was fighting off this personal demon slowly but surely.

My mind always seemed to be running faster than my mouth. For some reason, there were all these words that wanted to get out and my motor functions just were not up to the task. The result was a log jam, and the more it happened the more it caused anxiety.

The remedy was slow and hard to come by (occasionally the stammer makes a brief return visit requiring me to simply calm down). It took maturity, patience and practice. It required slowing down, listening rather than always talking (or trying to talk), picking when I needed to say something as opposed to when it would be nice to say something. As Lou Holtz once said: “If you can’t add value to silence, then shut up.” Amen.

Fast forward to the present day, I have worked in public relations for nearly three decades where verbal skills are critical for success. Just last week, I lectured nearly 160 students for almost an hour about cover letters and resumes. Earlier this week, I presented another lecture on communicating with Wall Street. And I have at least two more scheduled lectures before the spring quarter is over.

Even though I had to confront my stammer and subsequently overcome it, for some reason I was never scared of public speaking…but so many people are petrified about the prospect. What are some techniques that would-be public speakers should consider, even those who would rather be in the coffin than actually delivering the eulogy:

● Practice makes perfect (or at least it makes you better). Seriously, consider joining a group such as Toastmasters International that affords opportunities to improve your public speaking with colleagues who are confronting many of the same issues. You can’t get better unless you try.

speechpractice

● Speak on subjects that you know something about, or actually more than just something. Personally, I have given talks on politics, technology, government, strategic communications, social media, cover letters and resumes. Why? Because I have more than a basic understanding of these subjects. Please don’t ask me to speak on mathematics, science, fashion, art, classical music. I would get blown out on Jeopardy on these topics and many others.

● Research your audience. Who are you speaking to? What is the topic? What are their particular interests? How can you engage them? How can you challenge them? How can you inspire them? What are their potential questions? What do you want them to take away from your talk?

● Formulate a related PowerPoint or PDF presentation and use each graphic as a prompt. Think about two minutes per graphic, which is a good way to keep you on time and most of all, stay on message.

● Forget the podium (if you can). Some people need something to hold onto, and if that is the only technique that works, then go for it. Otherwise, wear a lavaliere microphone and just like Mick Jagger, use all of the stage. If possible utilize a floor monitor so you can see your PowerPoint graphics without having to repeatedly turn your back to the audience. Which brings me to my next point…

jobswithipad

● Avoid reading your presentation. Nothing bores an audience quicker than being read to. Personally, I can’t stand it when a telemarketer calls and starts reading from a script to me. Life is too friggin short. Audiences start squirming when someone reads page after page. The same applies to reading the graphics of your PowerPoint. The audience can read the graphics themselves. Instead, emphasize and amplify on the most important points of your presentation. This approach takes practice, but it is really effective. If you don’t believe me; just ask Steve Jobs.

● Find two friendly faces in two distinct sections of the audience and rotate your attention back and forth between the two. Instead of thinking of 160 people in the room, visualize speaking to two of your closest friends with a few others listening in for their own enjoyment and information. This approach really helps control the butterflies in the stomach.

● Develop an instinctive sense of when your audience has reached its mental potential. A good performer knows when to leave the stage, satisfying them and then departing with them wanting just a little bit more (they can always visit with you after the speech). Put yourself in the seat of each audience participant…if you think your tushy would be getting soar, then you can be assured that is the case for them as well.

Speaking of tushies, let’s address Gymnophobia…ah …another time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossophobia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gymnophobia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_VI_of_the_United_Kingdom

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King’s_Speech

http://www.toastmasters.org/

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