Sept. 16th, 2010
Today was surprising. I woke up and grabbed my phone first thing to check my email (as I always do), but that is where the routine stopped. I’m a subscriber to famous author and business motivator, Seth Godin’s, blog. I get an emailed update from him every morning. He seems to just know what insightful advice I need on any given day. Today, his post title was quite ironic. It was entitled: “Rehearsal Is for Cowards.” What is ironic about this is that I had every intention of spending most of the day rehearsing for my talk at Yale tomorrow. In the post, Seth explained that the best presentations are given when we don’t rehearse them sentence by sentence or word by word. Over-rehearsing is a way of showing that we don’t want anything unexpected to happen when we present. Seth argues that we should be seeking the unexpected and learn to “explore” rather than to rehearse. It makes sense, because my best speeches have always come when I simply bumbled through some ideas a few times, rather than practicing anything even remotely close to word-for-word.
The point that I want to make here is that no one wants to attend an overly-rehearsed speech, because the authenticity and connection to the audience, and more importantly, the moment is lost. Inexperienced and experienced speakers alike all too often assume that people want more polished presentations. The truth is, usually, unpolished and raw presentations may be a little less structured and not quite as smooth as their over-rehearsed counterparts, but they are always truer to the moment. What better way to affect an audience than to learn with them as you speak? Have you ever had a very intimate conversation with someone which deepened and enriched your understanding of life? Was it rehearsed before hand? Of course it wasn’t, so why should a talk to a bunch of entrepreneurs at Yale be any different?
So, I took Seth’s advice and just spent some time late in the day verbally exploring my main points and letting the talk run in whatever direction it chose after that. This means that the talk I’ll give at Yale tomorrow will be completely original and fresh in that moment. The only way to succeed when delivering a talk like that is to let go of our egos and be ready to make a few mistakes and not be perfect. It takes courage to openly admit to an audience that you are not perfect. Vulnerability: That is the truest form of courage, and it’s what people gravitate to.
The next time you have an opportunity to “stand and deliver,” might I suggest that you set your ego aside? Focus on exploring three to four main points that you believe your audience really needs to hear about. As you explore those points, your audience will join you in uncovering ideas and concepts that even you were not aware of. Truth be told, it is all about sharing value with your audience. The moment your internal motivation switches from appearing great and receiving accolades to giving something of value to your audience is the moment you transform from being an ok speaker to a great speaker.
(“The Freedom Skater”)