Mentoring My Speaking Mentor
One of the greatest benefits I’ve received in two decades of speaking is mentorship. I’ve been fortunate and privileged to work with some of the best speakers in the world. Their wisdom has shaved years off my speaking learning curve.
This week’s post is borrowed from one of my speaking mentors, Darren LaCroix. I post it for two reasons – one of which is not because he mentions my name in the post :)
The first point has to do with writing out your speech. It’s valuable and will save much time.
The second point is that sometimes it’s best if you follow your own advice. An important point even my mentor needed to be reminded of.
Brilliant Advice, But…
by Darren LaCroix, CSP
How do you decide whose advice you will follow and whose advice you will brush off? Do you decide based on who gives the advice? Do you consider how challenging it will be to implement? Do you ever find yourself dismissing it because you don’t want to do the work? Tough questions to consider, but be honest with yourself.
Now, when you are on stage presenting, do you give average advice or the best advice possible? I’m hoping the latter. This week I’ve been preparing for my Accredited Speaker presentation next week at the Toastmasters International convention in Washington DC. This is a final round for that accreditation. It is a live, 20-minute presentation in front of judges. Five presenters will be going for the designation. We do not compete against each other. It is a pass or fail judgment, so some of us, none of us, or all of us could receive our AS. For my NSA friends, it is like the Toastmasters’ version of the CSP. I’m taking this presentation very seriously. I’ve seen some amazing, full-time professional speakers not get it.
That being said, I have been getting as much live feedback as possible. My biggest challenge has been that I’ve been coming in at 29 minutes, and I get only 20 minutes. You see the problem. I need to cut, cut, cut. With each bit of content I ask myself, “To cut or not to cut, that is the question.” Another problem is that I love all of the content. So I called my friend and speaker coach, Mike Davis, and asked him if he could lend a coach’s eye. He said, “Sure, I’ll take a look. Did you write it out?” Yikes! But . . . !
I hadn’t written out my speech. Mike kindly reminded me of the very advice I give others. Oops! Do you take the very advice that you give to other people. My brain quickly went into defensive mode and tried to justify why I did not need to. My own advice may not be brilliant, but we should be teaching the best of what we know. If I were serious about this presentation, I needed to take my own advice.
I hunkered down with a cup of coffee and started to type. As I started transcribing my presentation, I quickly realized that this would also help me with figuring out the timing of each section of the presentation. The timing would be crucial for showing me which content I had to cut and how much time it would save. Cutting words wasn’t going to help. I needed to delete complete chunks of content.
As I started to see how slow the process was, I had another thought. I could pay someone to transcribe my practice presentation. With all of the services out there, I’m sure I could find someone to do just that for a reasonable fee. Then I asked myself, “Well, what is my intention?” I thought back to my transcribing the first version of my “Ouch!”speech. While it was painful to do, the pain of the process itself was enlightening. I knew that if I cared about this presentation, I needed to do all of the transcribing myself.
I thought that might take me an hour or two for a 29-minute presentation. I was wrong. It took me about five hours. Those five hours were gold. The title of my presentation is “The Top 5 Speaking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.” First I realized that in my 29-minute presentation, it took me eight minutes to get to the first mistake. Ouch! That’s almost half of the speech, and it’s disastrous. Even though I knew the strength of the content, I also knew that an 8-minute opening is too long for a twenty-minute speech. It throws off the balance of the structure.
Okay, that was the first big aha that I took away from transcribing. The pain continued, though, with each paragraph I transcribed. I realized if I removed my natural crutch words (now, all right, and so), I would cut my speech in half! Well, that is an exaggeration, but it was painful and annoying to hear so many crutch words. If I had had someone else transcribe it, I might have noticed them, but I would not have felt the pain of listening to it. Listening made me hyperaware of my problem. Pain is a powerful motivator to your own growth.
Do you follow your own advice? All of it? I got schooled in my mistakes by following my own advice that originally came from my speaking coaches, Mark Brown and David McIllhenny. I challenge you to transcribe at least ten minutes from a recording of your live presentations. Write down what you actually said, NOT what you meant to say. Thank you, Mike Davis, for holding up a mirror. That is what a great coach does. Do you want to grow your presentation skills faster? Are you tough enough to take me up on my challenge?
Darren LaCroix, CSP
World Champion of Public Speaking
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