By Jody Fuller
Last week, I spoke at the SEAS Educational Conference in Mississippi for 90 minutes. For a stuttering guy, that’s only about 45 minutes’ worth of material but still a long time, nonetheless. It’s a whole episode of Saturday Night Live. It’s an episode and a half of 60 Minutes. It’s how long it takes Lucy to figure out what she wants to order at a drive-thru window. Like I said, it’s a long time.
Now, it’s one thing to just get up there and run your pie hole for 90 minutes, but it’s something else to hold the audience’s attention for the duration. I’ve been slotted for 90 minutes on a handful of occasions but for a variety of reasons never had to go the full allotted time. I’m usually just fine with that and thought this was going to be the case for this event.
I was booked for the SEAS conference based on the recommendation of a representative from the Mississippi Department of Education who’d seen me speak earlier in the year at the Mississippi Association of School Superintendent’s winter conference. There must be lots of Baptists in The Magnolia State, because at both events, the attendees congregated near the back of the venue. Perhaps I need to start taking a retired Sergeant Major on the road with me to move everyone up front before I start each talk. Veterans know what I mean.
Performing comedy and speaking is much easier for me when I can almost reach out and touch the folks on the front row. I don’t like having that gap. I need to connect with my audience. The venue for the SEAS conference was in a small auditorium inside the Jackson Hilton. It was really nice, but there was no one on the first row. The second row, however, was comprised of three ladies sitting side by side by side. They were awesome! Once I told that first joke, I knew I had them and everyone else for that matter.
I could’ve talked for three hours. It really wasn’t a speech or a comedy performance; it was a talk. I let them know my story and how much I appreciated educators and how much educators have meant to me in my life. I cut up with them, and they returned the favor. It was just an overall good time and a great way to kick off the day. They even booked me on the spot for their Arkansas chapter’s conference next year, so I reckon I did a pretty good job.
Many times, event planners bring me in to kick off conferences or to send their attendees home with a smile on their face. Sometimes they have me speak after lunch. That’s just a shameless plug and not really relevant to this article at all but something to keep in mind.
Mississippi has been very good to me the past few years. I’m booked for the Mississippi Sheriff’s Association’s conference in December, just three days after the expected due date of our little girl. I’ll be sleeping at a very nice hotel away from the baby. I know I’ll miss her, but at least I should be able to get more than 90 minutes of uninterrupted sleep. Ninety minutes is a long time.
Jody Fuller is from Opelika. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at email@example.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com