If you could help someone avoid a big mistake, would you? I hope so. What if your intervention could help someone avoid years of frustration? If you want to own the stage someday, don’t do what I did! Whether you are an emerging speaker, a speech contestant, or a business owner who wants to build their business through presentations, listen up.
Trial and error is a great teacher. It can also be frustrating and tends to be a very slow process and often does not allow us to become world-class. I know because I tried doing it on my own for years. My ego was a big problem. Avoiding the trial and error-only growth pattern is especially important as a presenter. I love this quote by author, Dr. Jeffrey Lant,
“We humans are an egotistical breed. We regularly ignore specialists who could help, and we’re expert in making cunning excuses for our self-destructive behavior.”
Having a great teacher allows us to grow and reach levels higher than we ever could from trial and error alone. Why? Simple. Great teachers know what matters. They know what is important and what is not. They have worked with other students before and can give direction that allows good students to navigate the common mistakes. Great students also know that some teachers are better than others. Truly great students know they can learn something different from each teacher. They also know they have to be a sponge and go through books or audios several times to absorb all of the principles. You can’t go through content-rich programs or books once and internalize it all. I remember listening to Patricia Fripp, Alan Weiss, and Ron Legrand many times over. Do you listen or read more than once?
Being a do-it-yourselfer can save you money on a project around the house. It can also be frustrating and cost much more in the long run. In my own speaking career, I went to many seminars and listened to countless audio-learning programs again and again. I’m so thankful now for the effort I put in during my early years of development. Do-it-yourselfers rarely create world-class projects. The only folks who do are not do-it-yourselfers; they are masters of their craft. Which are you?
The biggest mistake of my career
If you are serious about owning the stage, don’t make the biggest mistake I made. I wasted years of effort trying to do-it-myself. As Ed Tate, CSP, WCPS, says,
“You can’t cheap your way to the top.”
I did learn that when we are on stage we need to crave feedback. We can’t know how truly effective we are unless we find out how the audience hears what we say. It is not just what we say and how we say it; it’s how it lands in the mind of the audience. The most important part of a presentation is the thought process in the listener’s mind.
Here is the problem though. When you crave feedback, what do you do with it? What do you listen to, and what don’t you listen to? Ask any speech contestant what their biggest challenge is, and most will tell you that it is dealing with all of the feedback. When we are so close to our own speech, it is almost impossible to wade through all the feedback and know which to incorporate. I love this quote from Ron Lewison, DTM.
“You should ignore 90 percent of the feedback you receive. The trick is recognizing the 10 percent that is gold!”
Brilliant! How do you know which feedback to incorporate and which to throw away? Simple. Ask someone who knows. Ask someone who knows what is gold and what is worthless. Maybe more importantly, what is the difference between gold and fool’s gold? For years, I thought I could figure that out by myself. I was a do-it-yourselfer for nine years.
It was not until 2001, when I got my first coach, Mark Brown, that I realized I needed help. It took Mark to point out my gems and help me polish them into gold. He was the one who asked me questions and mined my life in gold-rich veins that were within me and which I would never have found on my own. For example, when Mark looked at the first version of my winning speech, there was no Subway joke in there. He asked me during one of my sessions with him if I had any other failures in my life that we could use as an example in the speech. I remember sheepishly mentioning that I used to tell a joke in my standup comedy days about my Subway failure.
Mark said to try it out. I did. His eyes lit up, and he asked me why I had been holding out. It was gold, but I had no idea. If we want to reach our full potential, we need a qualified coach to help us find our gold and identify feedback from others that is gold.
My decision in 2001 was transformational in my career. I honestly don’t know if I would have ever become a full-time speaker without my coach’s help. It’s hard for me to tell you where all the gold is in your life. I do promise you this: It’s in there if you know where to look. Here is something else important: Much of the gold in your life lies in the moments of your own transformation. Identify them, and you will find some gems. Find a coach who will help find more gold in your life, and they will help you polish that gold to transform your audience members.
I’m not going to lie to you. Getting coaching requires some confidence. It can be a bit painful at times. Rapid growth usually is. Because I felt the pain, I was able to fast forward my own growth. How about you? If you have been coached before, you know what I say is true. Maybe it’s time for another session?
If you have never been coached by a qualified coach, consider it sooner rather than later. If you are a speech contestant, it’s critical. Why? All of the winners I know of had a coach. Most of the competitors I know usually reached a higher level when they got a coach rather than when they were do-it-yourselfers.
Don’t make the mistake I made. The sooner you make the decision, the sooner you will change the literal trajectory of your career. Now, one session will not be enough, but it will help you start to know where to focus. Don’t make the mistake I made by trying to do-it-myself for way too long. The right coach could be the best investment you ever make.
If you are looking for a coach, check out Mark Brown at
If you’d like to join Mark and me for our next LIVE Coaching Camp, check us out at http://stagetimeuniversity.com/events/get-coached-to-speak/.
(I do coaching only through the LIVE Camp, not one-on-one.)
Are you making any of these Top 10 Speaking Mistakes?