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The Loud Few

Why I Don’t Swear On Stage Anymore

4
minute read
Published on
April 15, 2024
The "loud few" are a small portion of your audience, but they matter.

Step into my time machine…

And let’s travel back to 2008—when a younger Andrew Davis is passionately stomping his way across the stage at a contractor event.

Andrew is totally fired up. 

Sweat glistens at his brow, and the bottom of his gray suit floats behind him as he moves quickly downstage.  

His bowtie looks sharp.  

His energy is infectious.

The audience is excited.

And things only get better as he starts to mix certain words into his speech…

$%@!.

And $&%@#.

And his personal favorite… %&*$(@.

Yep, it’s true. I used to swear in my speeches—a lot, in fact!

So, what changed me from a cursing sailor to a G-rated gentleman?

Here’s the story…

The Swearing Years

A lot of people don’t know this, but I used to swear quite a bit on stage back in the 2008 to 2010 era.  

At the time, Gary Vee was a pretty big deal. And people seemed to love it when Gary swore, so I figured I’d try it.  

Plus, swearing showed I was passionate. Some research even says it makes a person appear more intelligent. If I thought my bowtie and glasses did the trick, adding some curse words was sure to put me over the top.

Did it make my speech better? 

&@^* right it did!

The majority of the feedback I received from attendees was that my passion was downright infectious. And the swearing? They loved it.  

I even had an event organizer tell me how the energy I expressed with my foul language was one of the main reasons they hired me. They made it very clear that when I spoke to their audiences, swearing was okay. (In fact, it was encouraged!)

Over time, the onstage swearing became part of my brand.

Meet The “Loud Few”

After my gigs, I used the audience feedback forms to take the room's temperature. For the most part, the feedback was very positive.  

If I had an audience of a hundred people commenting on my session, probably 95 of them would say how amazing I was. A few would even mention how much they loved the swearing.

But at every event, there was also a small group of attendees—ones I call the “loud few”—who would say how disgusted they were by my language.

My response? 

I just dismissed them. They were grumps. They didn’t know how to have fun.

Most of the people loved me, so why should I change for a few folks who just didn’t get it?

My speaking career progressed steadily from 2008 to 2010 when I was invited to speak at a gig in Des Moines, Iowa.  

That’s when everything changed.

I’ll never forget this event. It was for a magazine publisher and the audience was filled with 800 magazines and their teams sitting at round tables.

After my usual introduction, I jogged on stage to begin my keynote. A few minutes into the speech, I dropped my first swear word.

No problem.

Things were going great. The audience loved my speech so far. A few minutes later, I swore again. I didn’t think twice.

Again, no problem.

About fifteen minutes into my keynote, I said my third curse word. 

And suddenly an entire table of people stood up from their chairs. 

They gathered their belongings, squeezed past the neighboring roundtables, and began to weave their way through the chairs towards the back of the room… and out the back doors.

Meanwhile, I watched helplessly from the stage. The rest of the audience twisted and turned curiously in their seats to witness the commotion. 

It was horrible.

Turns out, the grand exodus was a team of publishers from a religion-related magazine. And they were deeply offended by my colorful choice of words.  

After leaving the main room, this group of loud few went out into the hallway and angrily expressed their feelings to the event organizer. This was a professional event and to them, my swearing on stage was totally inappropriate.

After seeing their attendees in such a state, the event organizer came up to me and shared his own angry feelings—even though he had seen me speak before and knew I swore regularly.

Talk about a $@*!-show!

You can imagine the number of stageside leads and referrals I got from that gig.

Zilch.

From that day on, I SWORE I would never swear on stage again. 

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Is It Really Worth It?

We live in a day and age where the very loud few can hold sway over an entire event—and the event organizer. 

The “loud few” is a term I use for a small but vocal group of individuals who passionately express their opinions or concerns. 

They stand out from the majority of the audience and can make a very emotional appeal to event organizers, planners, and executives when they see or hear something they don’t like.

That might not seem like a big deal—until you think about how this can affect your reputation.

Every gig has the potential to earn you more gigs through referrals and stageside leads. But when you allow the loud few to find fault with your speech’s content, their negativity spreads throughout the audience like an infection. 

Plus, there’s a good chance the loud few aren’t the only ones who were offended by your speech.

I used to dismiss the loud few when I saw their complaints on my feedback forms. I figured their opinions didn’t matter that much since the majority seemed to like my speech.

But the truth is, if the loud few are saying it, many others are probably thinking it too.

That’s why I stopped swearing on stage.

This Isn’t JUST About Swearing

Sure, it started with swearing, but every time I get audience evaluation surveys back, I try to take the positive comments with the negative comments. I consider carefully whether the choice I made on stage should be changed, not to accommodate the loud few, but to make the speech better.

You see, revising your speech to satisfy the loud few will help you reach more people with your message. It will help you build stronger relationships that can lead to more referrals and new opportunities.

Take some time before every gig to really think through the kind of content you’re crafting on stage. You’ve got a lot of power to wield up there under those bright stage lights. Everything you say can have an impact on the lives of your audience members.

Your words and actions affect your reputation as a speaker. They can make or break your career. 

In this day and age, it’s more important than ever to be conscientious about what your audience is thinking and feeling.

And swearing? Well, that’s just one of the areas where speakers might want to tread carefully.

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Is It Really Worth It?

We live in a day and age where the very loud few can hold sway over an entire event—and the event organizer. 

The “loud few” is a term I use for a small but vocal group of individuals who passionately express their opinions or concerns. 

They stand out from the majority of the audience and can make a very emotional appeal to event organizers, planners, and executives when they see or hear something they don’t like.

That might not seem like a big deal—until you think about how this can affect your reputation.

Every gig has the potential to earn you more gigs through referrals and stageside leads. But when you allow the loud few to find fault with your speech’s content, their negativity spreads throughout the audience like an infection. 

Plus, there’s a good chance the loud few aren’t the only ones who were offended by your speech.

I used to dismiss the loud few when I saw their complaints on my feedback forms. I figured their opinions didn’t matter that much since the majority seemed to like my speech.

But the truth is, if the loud few are saying it, many others are probably thinking it too.

That’s why I stopped swearing on stage.

This Isn’t JUST About Swearing

Sure, it started with swearing, but every time I get audience evaluation surveys back, I try to take the positive comments with the negative comments. I consider carefully whether the choice I made on stage should be changed, not to accommodate the loud few, but to make the speech better.

You see, revising your speech to satisfy the loud few will help you reach more people with your message. It will help you build stronger relationships that can lead to more referrals and new opportunities.

Take some time before every gig to really think through the kind of content you’re crafting on stage. You’ve got a lot of power to wield up there under those bright stage lights. Everything you say can have an impact on the lives of your audience members.

Your words and actions affect your reputation as a speaker. They can make or break your career. 

In this day and age, it’s more important than ever to be conscientious about what your audience is thinking and feeling.

And swearing? Well, that’s just one of the areas where speakers might want to tread carefully.

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