November 10th, 2010
Total Distance for today: 0 miles
Total Distance for Tour: approx. 265 miles
LOCATION: Hyattville, MD (just outside Washington, DC)
STATUS: Spoke at Coolidge HS, and it rocked! I move on toward Richmond tomorrow
Be “one of them.”
First things First: The staff and students at Coolidge High, just like Choice Academy, were awesome hosts and an even better audience! BTW: If you’re from Coolidge, don’t forget to subscribe by email or become a fan on Facebook on the right!
Any speaker who has reached any level of success will tell you this: The most important thing as a speaker is to keep the goal of giving something of value to your audience foremost in your mind. In his most interesting book, How to Win the Crowd, the “Millionaire’s Magician”, Steve Cohen, put it well: He said that you should not be thinking, “Here I am!” when you run onto stage. You should be thinking, “There you are!” That’s a subtle but important change, because it takes the focus off of you and puts it on your audience. It creates a mindset of delivering, rather than performing. I felt as though I achieved that today. It wasn’t perfect. It might even have benefited from some extra polish, but that’s what I wanted: raw, genuine, and in your face value.
This speech was so different than any other speech I’ve given during this tour, and it brought me back to my speaking roots. Here are the specific things I did differently:
1) I did not wear the “Freedom Gear”: Instead, I brought the flag and skates as props.That might sound anti-Freedom Tour, but it was for a purpose. I realized that it can be hard for someone who doesn’t know me to take me seriously in a speaking setting, while I’m wearing the gear. More importantly: Wearing the gear is like wearing a clown-suit, in that it practically screams: “LOOK AT ME! I’m so interesting!” Remember what we said about the focus being on the audience and not on the speaker? Let’s keep the Freedom Gear for skating and TV interviews. 😉
2) I gave them what they needed: Before speaking, I observed every single reaction I could to every word spoken. This give me a clear indicator of what had no affect, what annoyed, and what excited the students. Since my speech was better structured than yesterday’s, I was able to simply adjust it for what the students were practically begging for!
3) I sat among them: One thing I would suggest to every speaker is to literally sit in the audience prior to speaking, if at all possible. Mingle, interact, but most of all: observe. To understand exactly what your audience needs, you must engage it on a personal level. The best part about today was that the students didn’t even know that I was the speaker until my name was called and I bounded right up to the podium. I came out from among them to tell them what I truly believed they needed and wanted to hear. It was amazing, because I actually felt the emotions I could sense they were feeling, while I was sitting with them. For just a moment, I felt as though I was one of them.
Needless to say, I was very happy with the results of the speech, and I even had a chance to speak more personally with some students afterward. That inspired me. Now, it’s onto Richmond, VA. It’s about 127 miles of skating, and I make the first 34 tomorrow.