Upping my speaking game

_1__Tamsen_Snyder_WebsterPhoto Credit: MarketingProfs

Over the last two days, I had the opportunity to attend a training for public speakers with a coaching firm, Oratium, led in part by my friend Tamsen Webster. One of the things I’ve always struggled with as a public speaker is coming up with a winning architecture for my presentations. I can do the delivery, the performance, just fine, but I’ve always felt that something was missing, something wasn’t quite right, something wasn’t as good as it could be.

What the last two days showed me were the missing pieces, the few tweaks and adjustments I need to make in order to take a presentation from good to great, from ordinary to extraordinary. I don’t view myself as a bad speaker, but the training was beneficial for me to understand what could be better, and what will be better in future talks I give. What I enjoyed most about the Oratium training was that it presented a complex, complete framework of how presentations work, and from there I could assess what I did right already and where I am deficient. Instead of trying to “just be better” or “just do more”, I could clearly see what it was that I wasn’t doing right.

What’s one of the biggest points where I have not done as good a job as a speaker? Giving the conclusions outright to the audience. This is a deficiency that comes largely from my martial arts training, where we learn to draw our own conclusions in real-time (and face bone-jarring consequences if our conclusions are incorrect), which is an efficient way to learn for the martial arts, but not an efficient way to learn or teach from the stage. Because of the limitations of how we learn in real-time (relatively poorly if we’re not trained to do so), it’s simply better for a speaker to hand a conclusion or insight to the audience rather than make them work for it and possibly come to a completely wrong conclusion.

I’ve got a lot of work to do in order to revamp and rework my speaking, but in the coming months and years, I hope that the training pays off for you (should you choose to see me speak) as much as it already has for me. If you’re ever in the speaking role, I would strongly encourage you to take an Oratium master class as well.

Disclosure: I was not compensated by Oratium for this post, nor do I receive any financial benefit, directly or indirectly, from it. I did receive a substantial discount to take the class, but there was no expectation or requirement for me to write about it.


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No, I’m not going to SXSW and here’s why

SXSW 2011
Photo credit: Shashi Bellamkonda

One of the perennial questions I get every year is whether I’m going to SXSW. The answer, unsurprisingly, is no. It’s not because SXSW isn’t a great show, one of the largest, with lots of incredible people at it. There are plenty. It’s not because it’s not fun – it is. The reason I don’t go is because I don’t work very well in the SXSW-style environment. It’s not because of the show, but my own personal shortcomings and perspective.

What environment is that? It’s a very busy, very attention-grabbing environment. When you pack hundreds of thousands of people into one area and a good chunk of them are either media or marketers, everyone tries to stand out really hard, shouts really loud (both metaphorically and literally), and tries to be seen. Nothing wrong with that, but that’s not an environment that I do particularly well in.

I don’t love large crowds in general (and after watching Apollo Robbins, you might not either), but I especially don’t work well in an environment where you have to initiate lots of surface random connections. That’s just not my style. There are plenty of people who do, who thrive in that sort of social butterfly situation, and for them, attending SXSW isn’t just a good idea, it’s also probably one of their most favorite events of the year.

So no, I won’t be at SXSW this year and haven’t ever been. For those who are going, I hope you have a wonderful time, meet lots of new people, be safe and smart, and enjoy great success from the event. It promises, as always, to be a legendary event.


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Awaken Your Superhero: Hubspot Bold Talks

At this year’s Hubspot Inbound 2013 conference, I had the privilege to share a 12 minute talk on awakening your superhero with the power that sits in the palm of your hand. You have superhero powers. You have opportunities aplenty to change the world around you. Do you have the motivation?

You have the power to change the world. Will you awaken your superhero?


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