The band had traveled 13 hours on 14 buses for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Now slime was falling from the sky. The 500 piece band had planned to hold their final rehearsal on the fields of Newark airport. Now they were stuffed into the Marriott ballroom. It was raining, sleeting and blowing on their parade. David Starnes, the band’s director, stood on the makeshift podium– a pile of chairs– on the far edge of the ballroom and said,
“I know this is not ideal, but sometimes you have to make chicken salad. All eyes on me.”
As I experienced his leadership, “eyes” had little to do with it. Between songs and sets he wove in one of the best motivational locker room speeches I’ve ever heard.
How to Give a Motivational Pre-Game Speech
David Starnes on leadership (with admiration and apologies for paraphrasing).
1. Visualize Game Day
He set the scene with great detail. “Matt Lauer has just introduced us. The whistle blows. Ready stance. And we begin the NBC sequence (nice touch to call it so).” It was enough to make me want to stand at attention, and I was just there taking pictures.
2. Inspire Perfection
“I heard one early entrance and one delayed cut-off. We don’t want to be watching the tape at the banquet tomorrow night wondering– who was that?” Who would want to be “that guy?” I’m not sure if he really heard two lone stragglers or not, but the sentiment was brilliant. Everyone needed to be on their A game. No one could afford to get lost in the cacophony.
3. Invite Improvement
“Woodwinds, what ONE THING can you do tomorrow that would make your performance just a little bit better?” If I were leading he trumpet section you can bet your dingles, I’m asking that question too. Leaders inspire leaders.
4. Make it Personal
“I want this to be so awesome that Cynthia Jenkins (name changed) can’t speak because she’s so choked up.” When I asked my son who Cynthia was (assuming it was a long-time Dean dying of cancer or some such story) he shared, “Nope, just a clarinet section leader.” Everyone of these 500 music makers matters.
5. Express Pride
“I am so proud of you. You’ve got this. All those hours of practice have come down to this and you are ready.”