Lessons from Showbiz: Be Yourself


“Be yourself. Unapologetically.”


During my 20s and 30s, I had the privilege of backing up some legendary showbusiness personalities. Across the spectrum of performers… from Tony Bennett to Bob Hope, Joel Grey, Julie Andrews, “Doc” Severinson, Paul Williams, Garrison Keillor or Abba… the essence—the purpose—of their shows was essentially the same: to provide an opportunity for audience members to get to know the performer better.

Through many cues—both subtle and overt—these audiences learned new things about their favorite performers. Where did this song come from? What was her life like growing up? What are his political views? What does she really care about? What are his hobbies? And this knowledge enhanced and deepened the audience’s appreciation of both the artist and their work.

Great performers generously share their real selves on stage. And through the experience of the show, the audience becomes closer to them. So, when the house lights come up, audience members have been changed in a very tangible way.

The best way to sell your message is to first sell yourself.

PBS TV’s “Mr. Rogers” told USA Today, “the greatest gift you can give anyone is your honest self – it’s the only unique gift anyone can give.”

It’s not uncommon for vacationers visiting Las Vegas to go to the same show every night (even twice a night!) when they’re in town, for fans of a rock band to follow their tour from city to city or for New Yorkers to see the same Broadway show multiple times. Why? It’s not to hear songs that they can more conveniently listen to at home or in their cars. It’s not to see the same dance numbers or hear the same jokes they heard every other time they attended.

It’s to visit a friend.

And when an audience member embraces a performer as a friend, they’ll come back again and again… and bring their friends along for good measure.

Once an audience accepts you, they will listen to your message.

Today’s audiences—whether in entertainment or business—crave authenticity. They no longer want to be announced to, marketed to or lectured to. They’re tired of regurgitated corporate talking points. They’re suspicious of too-slick phonies. But they will embrace people who come across like real people… and will more readily accept the messages they convey.

Being yourself also makes performing or presenting easier. When you don’t have to worry about who your supposed to be, you can just be who you are! Better for you… and so much better for your audience, as well.

From live music to standup to corporate meetings… from arenas to concert halls to hotel ballrooms or dive bars… any time there’s a performer and an audience… there’s the opportunity to engage and build a relationship that will long outlive the duration of an individual presentation or show.

From Ke$ha to Mr. Rogers, the best performers agree; being yourself is the best way to be both comfortable and credible.


Rick Cornish creates communications that inform, influence and inspire… helping organizations increase sales, promote unity and persuade their people to embrace change. Working in video, corporate meetings, event marketing and more; Rick delivers purposeful creative that drives business results and builds stronger brands.

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