Amy Carroll » Speaking Tips » Lessons from Speakers Who Have Been There

Lessons from Speakers Who Have Been There

Last week, my friend Cathy sent me a link to an article written by a professional speaker in the Harvard Business Review.  I don’t love the title , but I did love lots of the wisdom shared for speakers. (Sorry friends!  Please don’t let it offend you.  The content was so great that I decided to share despite the title and one colorful word. If you think you will be offended, you can skip the article and just read my thoughts on it.)  Click here to read the article.

I realized that 2013 is my 10-year anniversary of my first official speaking event, and these are the things from the article that resonated with me.

  • Speaking is something that you grow into.  Although you may start with some natural talent, we all have to invest in growth.  Some growth comes the hard way as we live through dreadful mistakes.  Other growth can come from being taught through books, conferences, coaching, listening to other speakers, etc.  It’s hard work to become a great speaker.
  • Your best speaking will come from your greatest passions.  Being a speaker isn’t the same as being in a speech class.  In speech class, you’re given a random assignment and required to develop a speech.  True professional speakers understand that we’re not experts on everything nor are we passionate about everything.  Authentic passion transforms a message from mundane to outstanding.
  • You’re at your best when you’re the most yourself.  My greatest struggle is to avoid “on stage shutdown”.  It’s my self-protective mechanism that dulls my personality, my movement and my energy.  “If they don’t know the real me, then their criticism doesn’t hurt as much.”  That’s my subconscious thought.  I loved this article, because the author emphasizes unleashing  your true self.  It’s the fastest and truest way to connect with our audiences
  • You have to persevere through painful failures to become a better speaker.  One of my favorite parts of the article is the author’s sharing of the feedback from one of his first events.  It was painful even to read!!  I have some stories just like that.  As a speaker coach, I’d love to pretend that I’ve never flopped, but it’s just not true.  I loved this author’s reminder that failures are an integral part of the process.

What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned along the way?

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  1. I’d have to say one of my greatest lessons was when someone in the group asked me this question,

    “When you are talking about really sad experiences in your life, why are you smiling?”

    I was so thankful to hear that comment, though at the time I went through feeling embarrassed at the thought I looked foolish. Still, I came to realize I cared more about how my audience might feel at the moment then if I was congruent. Now I can save the smiles for when I talk about how God was my comfort when there was no comfort around me.

    1. I learned a vital lesson just last week, two actually.

      First, I need to ALWAYS test the microphone well before the meeting starts! I ended up with a VERY “hot” headset and had to greatly restrain my normal speaking volume to keep from blasting everyone’s ears. (There was nobody available to re-set the sound board.) I felt myself getting duller and duller and duller, as everything about me became more and more subdued to match my volume. (And a full 1/3 of the women filled out my “Keep in Touch” form only for the raffle — they checked the box “do not add me to any e-mail lists, just include me in the drawing”…typically less than 10% do so!)

      Second, I need to reconsider driving more than an hour to morning speaking engagements. Last week’s took 2.5 hours, plus I added 30 minutes for traffic, and I was drained by the time I arrived. I hate adding the expense of staying the night before, but if that’s what it takes for me to be fully present, then it’s worth it.

      1. Great lessons, Cheri!

        One of the things I always struggle with using microphones has to do with the over-the-ear kind. So many times they don’t really fit, move around and bang on my earrings (I’m a big earring girl!). I need to buy some skin-colored medical tape to carry with me to secure those things. Thanks for reminding me! ~Amy