My client Jeff was feeling (and looking) discouraged. “Michael, I feel I’ve lost control of my speech. Lately I’m just not having any fun with it.”
Have you ever felt this way about a presentation?
To understand why Jeff felt this way, let’s take a look at how He got there.
A Promising Start, But Then…
Early versions of the speech were positive. It had entertaining anecdotes, relevant research, and a clear call to action. The material was insightful, humorous, and inspirational.
At some point in the process, Jeff shared his speech with other people. This included work associates and members of his Toastmasters groups.
That’s where the problem began.
He received feedback and suggestions.
Lots of them.
A few were insightful, others weren’t relevant, and some was contradictory. That’s an expected part of the process.
But, Jeff made a huge mistake. He incorporated the suggestions.
Everyone of them!
As a result, his speech became a jumbled mess of disconnected ideas that did not support his main theme.
His original playful and uplifting delivery style disappeared. It was replaced by one that was uninspired and wooden.
That’s when he came to me and said, “Michael, I feel I’ve lost control of my speech. Lately I’m just not having any fun with it.
Jeff Isn’t Alone
Many people have put themselves in the situation for the first few years of my career, I did this too many times.
The biggest culprits of this error are lack of experience and insecurity. If that’s your situation, don’t ask many people for their opinions. If you do, you’re susceptible to listening to every idea given to you.
In 2003, I qualified for the semifinals of the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. A victory in that contest would’ve put me in the final nine out of 30,000 contestants.
Because this was my first time speaking, at that level, I was intimidated and overwhelmed. I listened to everybody’s opinion and incorporated every idea I heard.
Then came the big day in Toronto, Canada. In front of 450 people, with a spot in the world championship finals on the line, I started my speech.
Two minutes into it, my mind went completely blank.
All the while, 900 eyes are looking back at me waiting for me to say something. Anything!
I paced the stage. I had so many versions of my speech running through my head, I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to say next.
Eventually, I just started speaking off the top of my head and turned it into an impromptu speech.
Six months of hard work evaporated because I had too much rattling around in my brain.
A Hard Lesson To Learn
As disappointing as that experience was, it was the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned in speaking. I’m happy to share it with you now:
No matter what, never lose control of your message or your speech.
Here are some tips on how to do that:
1. Be clear on your message. Once you’ve established that do not deviate.
2. Be careful whose feedback you incorporate. Only consider the evaluations of people who are qualified to help you improve your speech.
3. Many well-meaning people will offer opinions, or tell you how your speech made them feel. Thank them for their consideration, and then, if their feedback isn’t relevant to you, disregard it.
4. Periodically ask yourself, “Am I still having fun? Am I enjoying the process? Am I still clear with my main message?”
Follow these steps and you can create meaningful and memorable messages that you enjoy giving. You can avoid the experiences that Jeff, I and countless others have had.
You can keep your speech fun and fresh.
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