From my earliest childhood memories, I’ve been fascinated by professional wrestling. The pageantry, the story-telling, the over-the-top characters, it always wowed me. In fact, working with WWE in promoting shows and their superstars, like John Cena, was a major career highlight for me. Yes, the stories are scripted and can be silly, but the athleticism and showmanship is unparalleled. One thing professional wrestlers are completely underrated for is their communication skills. You see, good wrestlers can talk people into buying tickets, watching on TV or purchasing a pay-per-view megashow. They connect with people in ways politicians wish they could. They captivate, they motivate, they inspire, they entertain. And you can learn some lessons in communications from them.
Lesson #1 – Don’t fall on your way in.
First impressions can mean everything. Your communication with an audience begins from the moment they can see or hear you. Take a deep breath, collect yourself, and literally or figuratively, put one foot in front of the other. Case in point, The Shockmaster! Good guys Sting and the British Bulldog announced The Shockmaster as their mystery tag team partner. Nobody had ever seen this character before, and he was supposed to be a big deal. And…well…see for yourself what happened…
Lesson #2 – Connect with your audience
If your audience can’t relate to you as a person, it will be difficult for them to truly understand what you are presenting. It’s not impossible, just really difficult. People want to see themselves in your shoes – that they can do all the great things you have done, that they put their pants on just like you…one leg at a time. That relatability is a key to acceptance and respect.
Nobody grasped that concept like “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. While he was a wildly successful entertainer, he constantly referred to himself as a common man, the son of a plumber. Fans connected to him because he set himself on the same level as them. And no one interview collects that sentiment better than the classic “Hard Times” promo he delivered after coming back from an injury in 1985.
Lesson #3 – Find your spokesman
Sometimes, you may not be the best person to talk for yourself. You may not be the most articulate, the most well-versed. Identify the person who best represents you or your organization and allow them to do the talking for you. Of course, some people may wonder why you aren’t talking for yourself, but a good spokesperson goes a long way to fixing that issue. Or, you may be dead, like the Undertaker, and need someone to help you communicate!
Lesson #4 – If you are going to be crazy, go all the way
Know how you want to present yourself and go in that direction 100%. Own it, be it, live it. Especially if you are kind of nuts. Like the Ultimate Warrior. Here is a compilation of his…monologues.
Lesson #5 – Quote wisely
Oftentimes, a popular quote or phrase can help you get your point across. People can relate your point to the quote you are saying, giving them another frame of reference. Also, there is confidence in familiarity. If something SOUNDS familiar, people will have less trouble accepting it. Take, for instance, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who used a popular Biblical passage to create one of the most important phrases in wrestling history!
Lesson #6 – Use some humor
Like quotes, jokes go a long way in disarming an audience. It breaks up what you have to say, allowing the audience to catch their mental breath. Plus, there is the added benefit of likability that comes when you crack a good joke. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, was as good at adding crowd-pleasing humor into an interview as The Rock. Check out this classic moment:
Lesson #7 – Kill Ambiguity
You HAVE to be clear and concise – don’t leave anything open for interpretation if you have a strong message you wish to convey. If you leave doubt in your audience’s mind as to what you meant to say, you have effectively killed your point. The master at this is Ric Flair. After he spoke, you knew exactly what he said – and that he meant it.
Lesson #8 – Explain yourself fully
Nobody likes to be left guessing. When something controversial happens, people look for explanations. And when the controversial action is completely out of character, people will DEMAND the thought process that led you down that path. Show people how you got to where you currently are and they will be more apt to follow you as you continue to develop the concept. The best example of this was from WCW’s Bash at the Beach 1996 when career superhero Hulk Hogan suddenly turned EVIL! Oh no!!!!!
Now I’ve got one question: Whatcha gonna do, communicators, now that you know how to communicate like a professional wrestler….BROTHER!?!?!?!?!?!