Even if you’re not a sports fan, you probably heard about the Chicago Cubs baseball team’s breaking one of the longest non-winning streaks in sports history. Just last week they won the World Series in dramatic fashion after a 71-year drought.
What does this mean to you and me as speakers? It might mean more than you think. When you and I are on stage, part of our secret ingredient should be hope. No matter what the subject, even when delivering seemingly boring content, we need to deliver a bit of hope and encouragement. Why? It is part of our responsibility as a presenter. It isn’t written anywhere, but if we want people to act or do something different, we must add hope so that audience members follow through with the information we give them.
That being said, what adds more hope than an underdog story? What are crucial elements to our underdog stories? First, of course, is adversity. Without adversity, your story will probably put your audience to sleep. Second is persistence. We love a good story of people overcoming adversity and persisting when hope feels lost. It gives us hope and encouragement.
What made the Cubs’ victory so sweet? It was not just the 71-year drought. It was also the drama right up until the end, not knowing what the outcome would be. It was also not just the heroes on the field. It also included the heroes in the stands watching and cheering for their beloved team and the people in bars and at home watching on TV right alongside celebrity fans. And the longevity of their believing in their team year after year, always hopefully saying, “Maybe next year.” It all added up to one of the most memorable games in sports history.
Think about it, if the Cubs had just swept the series four games in a row, it still would have been great, but it would not have had the same sweetness. If the Cleveland Indians had won, that too would have been a great story. Why? They had had a victory drought as well. It was compelling because you had two underdogs fighting it out. Sports fans and non-sport fans could not resist watching. According to Reuters, it was the most watched baseball game in 25 years!
Look carefully at the lesson for us as speakers. It is about the story. It is about the underdog finally getting a chance and winning after many valiant attempts. Consider that when you tell your story. It is important to be authentic and show your failures, so we can appreciate your wins. The more open you are, the better you can paint the picture and help your audience feel the emotion of those failures. They will connect with you there. They will also go with you on the journey and revel in your success. The big difference for us as speakers is the ability to document and share our process of getting from the failure to the success; to give people a road map to follow from our loss to our wins. The better we can do this, the more value we carry.
With each subject you present, consider stepping back and taking inventory:
1. What are the losses I share? (Both mine and others)
-Can the audience see and feel them?
2. What are the wins I share? (Both mine and others)
-Can the audience see and feel them?
3. Have I created a clear roadmap for people to follow to get from one to the other?
-How can I make the journey clearer?
-How do I give the audience hope so that they follow my roadmap?
Here is an example of just one of my roadmaps. When it comes to mastering presentations there is more than just one skill set involved. So, when I’m teaching presentation mastery, I break it down into The Core Four, skills that must be mastered. I show people what the core skills are and the best order in which to approach them. The first core is the ability to find content and structure it. The structure is the foundation. Next is to create stories that stick with your audience. After that I suggest focusing on the skill of making an audience laugh followed by working on your personal style and delivery.
When you and I are on stage, we have the privilege of influence. What will you do with that? Honor the privilege by giving people the losses to relate to, the wins they can aspire to, and the roadmap to get there. Remember the Cubs; remember to add hope.
There were a thousand stories that were compelling behind the Cubs’ win, human interest stories behind many of the players and many of the fans. Which one touched you the most? Whichever it was is the one you could best retell. Why? Because that story touched your heart. Consider that lesson, too. You and I better deliver the stories that mean the most to us.
I have to say that one of my personal favorite moments was seeing long time Cubs’ fan, comedian and movie star Bill Murray, in sheer joy after they won. To me, it was so cool to see a man who brought America so much joy and laughter over the years finally get to see them win. Seeing his pure deep smile brought a smile to my face. What story did you like the most? Why do you think that is? Think about it.
Just for fun, check out this Saturday Night Live Cubs’ skit with Bill Murray…