It’s hard to fathom how much pressure he was under to get this moment right.
The last time NBC attempted to bring the popular 12:30 show into late night’s 11:30 “prime time” slot, it was a ratings and PR disaster.
Hard to determine if even Conan ultimately came out a winner in that debacle, but the whole affair certainly cranked the pressure dial for NBC and Fallon on Monday night.
There were a thousand ways he could have blown his first impression. The worst outcomes would’ve been if he came off as pandering to Jay and Johnny fans (with over-the-top homage to the history of the gig)…
… or to be the bull in a China shop kicking the down door and scuzzing up the joint with outrageous skits that could’ve easily missed the mark.
What he did instead was something masterful that instantly won the affection and confidence of 11 million viewers. It’s the same thing we, as marketers and experts, should be doing every time we get in front of a new audience. Yet, very few get this right.
So, with months to prepare and the eyes of the world staring him down, what did Fallon do?
He simply walked out and said “Hello, I’m Jimmy Fallon.”
Making no assumptions about predetermined objections or affections of any one viewer, he told us…
– who he is (a 39-year-old husband and father of a 6-month baby girl)
– where he’s from (Saugerties, NY, also introduced his parents in the audience)
– what he has struggled with (humanizing jokes about barely graduating high school)
– what he discovered along the way (story about begging to watch Tonight Show as a kid, discovered stand-up comedy, making it onto SNL)
– the result of that discovery (shocked to be hosting Tonight Show)
– and why that matters (heartfelt story explaining “to think there is some kid asking his parents to stay up and watch me”.)
It was the perfect tone for humanizing a bigger-than-life moment. His stories and sincerity in telling them took what could have been a blinding spotlight and reduced it to the soft glow of a cozy bar where conversation flows easily between friends.
To pull it off, Fallon leaned on a classic go-to story hook formula that never fails in the biggest moments. It goes like this:
You’ll see this same story hook formula used in everything from presidential inauguration speeches to classic print ads to 30 second TV spots during the Super Bowl.
Comics often rely on it to establish their persona when making a big debut, like a first appearance on national television, and, of course, their first minutes hosting the legendary Tonight Show.
What’s really cool about this formula is when less famous folks like you and me use it to introduce ourselves to audiences (speaking at conferences, during interviews or to visitors to our websites) it respects the moment – and the listener – by allowing us to share what makes us real.
Afterall, we only listen to and buy from people we know, like and trust. This is the secret to why we feel bonded to certain people and could care less about others. It’s all about the stories we tell, and our willingness to be human in sharing the details.
If you want to start using this simple formula to tell your own story, I’m happy to show you how. I’ve just completed a book called The 60-Second Sales Hook and it walks you through the formula step-by-step.
The book is off to the publisher and I’m promised it will be polished and ready for final approval this week (it’s fun to be on this side of a deadline for a change 🙂
The paperback version will be for sale on Amazon next week, but I’ll be giving away free downloads of the book to subscribers of The Copywriters Edge, so stay tuned. I’m really excited to share this with you.
And in case you’re interested, I’ll also be posting some stuff about how I finally got out of my own way to get this book published after pulling my (tiny) hairs out over it for more than a year. (HINT: stop being a writer and become an author instead!)
For now I’m interested to hear what you thought of Fallon’s Tonight Show debut, so sound off in the comments!