The Dude-Bro Conundrum

I have the good fortune of delivering keynote speeches at over 100 corporate events per year. They range from a few hundred to many thousands of people in attendance, often with elaborate staging, lights, and production value. Hours before taking the stage, an AV tech check occurs where all audio and visual elements are plugged in and tested.

Within 11 seconds of arrival, I can tell if it will be smooth sailing or a disaster (there’s no middle ground here, by the way. It’s either terrific or terrible). I’ve discovered an inverse correlation between the number of times I’m called “dude” or “bro” and the quality of the crew. In other words, if I’m greeted with a giant, “DUUUUUDE,” I know I’m in trouble. “Hey bro, I’m still looking for a missing cable. Hope I can find it soon, dude.”

AV tech: “Dude, your Mac must be broken!”

Me: “Did you try un-muting your soundboard?”

AV tech (grinning): “Duuuude! All set, bro! Thanks, dude.”

On the other hand, you can instantly tell when a true professional is running the show. They are friendly, to be sure, but they also exude a knowing confidence. I can tell immediately when I’m in good hands, in the presence of a proficient expert. No worries on my end, no “dude” or “bro” coming from their lips.

There’s a powerful lesson in here that transcends the world of corporate keynotes. We must ask ourselves… how do we show up for those we serve? Do we project the sloppy dude-bro vibe of a careless amateur, or do we portray the grounded confidence of an expert? You can be sure that clients, team members, and business partners alike take notice.

There’s nothing wrong with being laid back or casual, but if we hope to win in these increasingly challenging times, we must be very deliberate about how we show up. Going far beyond first impressions, let’s commit to demonstrate professionalism, expertise, and mastery on a consistent basis.

I don’t get to choose my AV crew, but your customers and employees make a choice every day. If we intend to keep – and grow – our most important relationships, let’s put some energy into showing up like we’re meant to be there.

It may take a little extra attention to detail and focus, but the long-term rewards will be well worth the trouble.

Dude…you’ll really see the difference, bro.