July 28, 2017

Why you need to take every speaking opportunity



I forgot my stuff.

I had a workshop Friday morning, and I thought I was ready, but I wasn't.

I had finished my slides, I had finished my notes, I had printed my handouts.

I always have my tools in my bag, like my presentation remote, my VGA-to-USB adapter cable, markers and other items I take to my presentations. Except I didn't.

I drove 45 minutes from Ojai to Santa Barbara, feeling relaxed and confident. The topic wasn't new; it's a module that I usually teach as part of my Shake Up Your Speaking retreat. But for the first time, I was offering it as a stand-alone training.

I got to the venue and immediately started setting up. In the process of connecting my computer to the projector, I realized I had left my cable in my other presentation bag. And then I discovered that my remote was missing. I could envision in my mind exactly where it was: sitting on my desk, with a fresh battery installed. I borrowed a remote from my host, then miraculously spotted an HDMI adapter in the projector cart, and continued hooking up my presentation (at least I arrived early enough to troubleshoot).

It was time to begin, after an opening exercise and some announcements. I was introduced to the group and started my presentation. As I started speaking, I came to the slow realization that my notes looked nothing like the slides I was clicking through. I flashed back to my preparation and remembered that I had initially created a completely different presentation days earlier, then had changed my mind and replaced it with the current presentation. Unfortunately, with several files in the same folder, I had printed out the notes for the original presentation, not the one I was currently delivering.

Always a fan of transparency in my presentations, I openly shared with the group that I had brought the wrong notes, and quickly moved them to a side table. Had a brief laugh about my forgetfulness, and continued on.

At this point, having forgotten so many of my tools, and having brought the completely wrong notes, you might think that I would be in a panic and completely discombobulated.

But here's the thing: I've been presenting for 25 years. I remember walking into a classroom in the mid-90s, having completely forgotten my notes, and recreating them from scratch on a blank piece of paper provided by the teacher, just so I'd have something to call on if necessary. That was then; this is now.

I was able to flexibly adapt to my circumstances because I have done literally hundreds of presentations over 25 years.

Did I panic when I realized that I had left my tools in the other bag? Sure! And when I had the realization that my notes were totally wrong and that there was no way to make them work? Oh yes.

But because I have experience, and because I've been through many awkward and uncomfortable situations over the years, I was able to resume my presentation smoothly and make it work. And on top of that, I was able to use my own mishap as a teaching moment for the participants - one of my favorite ways of teaching!

Are you avoiding presenting because you fear a situation like this? Just think how fantastic it'll be, three or 10 or 20 years from now when, because you chose to take these speaking engagements, you are now prepared for ANYTHING.

It's your time now to get speaking engagements on your calendar. It's your time now, to say YES to speaking opportunities. Getting as much experience as possible is long-term protection against the insecurities and discomfort of making mistakes. You learn to deal with the unexpected and the unknown. You become comfortable with uncertainty.

And let me be very clear: Without this kind of experience, you will NOT become comfortable with uncertainty. You will never get used to being caught off guard and you'll never get used to getting out of your comfort zone.

So please. Take every speaking engagement that comes your way. Make engagements happen if they're not just falling into your lap. Find ways to get out there, to get in front of audiences, and to get practice.

Because days like last Friday will happen to you. And you can panic, freak out, and throw off your whole rhythm - taking the audience down with you. Or you can roll with the punches, make a couple of jokes, and keep going, making it all about the audience's experience and learning, and not about your embarrassing blunder.

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

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