Thursday, December 06, 2012

Picking Up, Dusting Off


I got some feedback recently on my public speaking that was, honestly, devastating.
But, as is my habit with almost any setback or loss, whether in my career or personal life, I was figuratively (and almost literally) picking myself up within minutes and putting together a plan to make it all better. I only hope that's a sign of good coping skills and not delusion.
Here's what happened. I did a presentation to a colleague's employees and he absolutely loved it. He was so taken with it that he vowed to adopt my lessons and change the way they do their own presentations. He thought so highly of it that he recommended me to one of his contacts at a professional speakers bureau.
Now I've applied to a few speakers bureaus and it's a tough, tough field to break into. I thought acting was a competitive field, but getting a talent agent was far, far easier than getting representation for my speaking. Hell, getting a publisher for my book was easier, and the publishing world is insane.
But there are tons and tons of speakers out there and relatively few gigs. Most people want to book a celebrity or athlete or political figure or bestselling author. And most speakers bureaus want to represents those kinds of speakers, because they make a bigger commission from $50,000 engagements than they do from $3,000 engagements.
Still, I have been confident from the beginning (which, I must remind myself, was about 16 months ago) that I have a unique and compelling story to tell and a way of delivering that story that truly stands out.
But the feedback I got on my video was surprising. On the positive side, he said I come across as a nice guy and he was sure that audiences must like me. He could tell that I do well in front of audiences, and that's true. The feedback I get, in both formal ratings and direct feedback from people who come up to me afterwards (many buying my book), is very, very positive.
But he said the industry was getting away from hiring speakers who make audiences feel good. They want someone who will challenge and provoke them, push them in a new direction.
He also said my opening story was too long, which is true. I like the video because it captures my entire book in about 10 minutes. But it needs to be just three or four minutes.
Finally, he said I need a harder edge in my speaking style. I need to come on stronger --  not jerky, but forceful.
So I've got a whole new gameplan. I've been working on a new introduction, something that makes a strong statement right up front. I've come up with a new opening story that's shorter and more pointed. And I'm taking the rest of the speech and giving it all a sharper edge. Less coddling, more provoking.
And then I'm going to hire a videographer for my next big speech and create a whole new video. And then I'm going to start all over again with my marketing.
That all sounds very constructive and positive, but it's taken me a few weeks to move from resignation to grim determination to glimmers of excitement.

And who knows? This guy could be completely wrong. But the more I've thought about it, the more I agree with him. To progress *clink*

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