You can benefit from my mistakes! As speakers, we are often professional reminders. Once in awhile, we need reminding ourselves. Case in point: The European Tour I just completed with fellow World Champion Speaker, Ed Tate.
I’ve learned quickly on previous trips to Europe that “American speakers” have a label, and it is not necessarily that good. Many successful American speakers have gone over to Europe not understanding that their culture looks at presentations differently. Often, many fill huge arenas and pitch, pitch, pitch their products. It has been made clear to me that because I’m from the U.S., many attendees come with barriers up and arms crossed. I’m cool with that. Be skeptical. I honestly do not blame them.
First, here is what I did right. I did not shy away from this fact. When people walked into our “free workshop,” we clearly had a product table displaying some of our programs for deeper learning for those that were interested. Keep in mind, Ed and I were not getting paid, and we covered our own flights to the U.K. After my presentation opening, I said, “You may be thinking ‘this guy is here just to sell me something.’ Let me tell you this…I will NOT let you down!” This was usually followed by a big laugh. It was the “elephant in the room.” If you follow the Patricia Fripp speech model, from the Create Your Keynote program, you know that we teach you to anticipate these types of audience questions.
Then, I set up the fact some speakers do speak, without giving any real content, just to persuade people to buy. Then I said, “That is not me. My goal is to give you so much usable ‘how to’ content that serious people want to take home more.” I mentioned that even if people never invested one more dollar in my learning, they would still never look at speaking the same way again after my presentation. I asked the audience, “Is that fair?” Then, let them reply. It was real, I mean it and it works.
Now, for what we did wrong. As you may know, Ed Tate and I have very different speaking styles. He can get the audience up and doing things that I would personally not be comfortable doing. He owns it though and it works for him. If you have ever been to a Champ Camp that he and I are leading, you know that he gets people out of their seats and dancing before the program even starts. It is fun and it breaks down a great deal of the tension in order to create a deeper connection with our audience. It works. Ed is also known for getting people up doing exercises to reinforce his content. We both have the audience “raising” their hands in agreement when we ask questions. For example, I raise my own hand and say, “Raise your hand if you want to look good when you are on stage!” I then yell, “Let it go! It is not about you!” I own that line. It works. It gets a great laugh and most people get the value of what I’m saying.
Now, getting on to what we did wrong. One night during the tour back at our hotel room, Ed and I were checking emails. I got an email from a professional European Speaker. It was someone that I greatly respected and listen to. The well intentioned email suggested that for the rest of our tour, we cut back on the interaction and didn’t act quite so “American.” Ed and I talked about it and could feel that the audience’s interaction was feeling different from what we were used to. They responded and interacted, but as the email suggested, the European audiences did not like it. They were just being “polite.” It made sense and we do know that this speaking colleague had good intentions. He was actually trying to help and let us know what the audience there was thinking.
In our next city, we were a bit “gun shy” and edited our presentation. We did not have the same connection with our audience. We covered the exact same content. It was simply delivered differently. We didn’t say much to each other that night.
The next day on the train to the next city, Ed and I debriefed. It wasn’t better. It wasn’t us. We were not being “ourselves.” We realized we made a classic mistake. We listened to one person. Whenever you get “common feedback” from several people, we do need to listen and consider what is being said. When we receive feedback from one person, we should not let it distract us from our plan.
We needed to be us. We needed to do what we do best, the way we do it best. We decided to commit to the original plan, only deeper and with one little twist. Right up front, we started to ask our audience, “Do we have permission to be American?” It cracked us up as well. We owned it. Ed had people dancing; people that we were not sure would do it. We went around and shook hands with everyone we could, made eye contact and smiled, welcoming each person, personally.
It worked. We know some people may not have loved us, but there is something about a person who authentically “owns” who they are. It is like getting a bit of a “hall pass” and some bonus points. Be you, stick to your plan and own it!
Please share your thoughts below!
LOL! Asking permission to be American is a very Canadian thing to do!! How ironic!
Being myself was a tough lesson to learn. My first big presentation I turned into (your words) “Speaker Woman” It was so boring when I watched the video it put me to sleep!
I am Perfectly Imperfect the way I am. Some love me, some don’t. My intention is to share what I am learned in my life and hope that they receive my message. My intention is not to be somebody else when on stage. Thanks for all the lessons.
I am returning to the platform after many years – this article was entertaining (funny as usual) and highly educational – it is a great way to help me remember what I already know
Great article! As an international traveler and the husband of a Brit I appreciate this very much. Try being yourself in another country while teaching through an interpreter. I did in Iraq… that was interesting.
I learned more from you and Ed in the second half of your presentation than I have learned in any other speaker forum.
This is to thank you and Ed for your session at PSA Cardiff. I really appreciated receiving some tuition in technique as opposed to mere evaluation.
To be honest some American speakers do grate on our conservative British reserve as I am sure our lower key approach is a little dull for American audiences. I have just returned from Florida where I spoke at four Toastmaster clubs and was very aware that some of my words and phrases were unfamiliar to an American audience. But they ‘loved my English accent!
You and Ed are both American I am British – as Churchill said – two countries divided by a common language.
It would be wrong think that all British audiences would be so uncomfortable with selling from the stage. Attendees at personal development seminars are not only used to it they expect it and realize that this is part of the funding of the event.
Your problem was not so much your American ways but that the normal market of your hosts, the Professional Speakers Association usually speak for sizable fees to corporate audiences and would not need to ‘sell from the stage’. Indeed they look down on it . They may have their book on sale at the back of the room but this is more about increasing their audiences regard for them than making an extra buck The lesson if any were needed would be to choose hosts who are a little more open to a more commercial approach.
When I next speak in America do I need to ask for permission to be British? I don’t think so.
I had a fabulous afternoons tuition from two world champions – thank you so much.
Do you have permission to be American?
This is a question that triggers interest ! Good headline, I couldn’t help reading !
There is some truth in what this person said to you, though it’s probably better to keep being who we are even if it’s not what’s expected.
In London when I arrived at your workshop, I caught up with friends at the back of the room. We were happy to catch up before it was time to shut up and listen. We had a puzzled look from far at the people dancing on the stage. I said “They are American” and we smiled. It was an easy cliché but it worked. We kept distant and socialized like “normal” people do. You know “Hello, good to see you, how have you been..” things like that.
Another friend told me after the workshop that he loved the content – and I fully agreed it was fantastic content – but he hated the audience participation bits. I fully agreed too. Even when I was a five years old, I already hated these antics. Raise a hand if you love chocolate! Raise the other hand if you brush you teeth after eating a banana! Raise a foot if you have arthritis and smile if you can! Raise the other foot, and if you don’t fall on your bump, you win an aero trip to the cash machine! whoop! ……. Do we really enjoy that ? If we have to…..
There are a couple of prejudice against Americans. No, not Americans. People from the States. How are they called? A Peruvian is from Peru, it’s in America. When you meet one, he tells you he’s Peruvian, he does not a priori identify with the whole continent. No, you’re not allowed to be American. But… if you want to win over our hearts, a part from using your art and speak wonderfully, just send a bit of good jazz music, and let the magic operate..
I span both worlds. Being British and married to an American I see and feel both points of view. Being our authentic self is important and so is adjustment to our audience. Love that expression.
I appreciated the enthusiasm on your European tour.
Excellent! Very helpful article.
Perhaps I’m more cosmopolitan and can accept that American speakers are more showman like. I was certainly entertained by Ed and you, joined in the exercises when I chose, didn’t when I didn’t want to. I have to say I, too, got a tremendous amount from your talks. I made the mistake of joining a speaking program and realise I discovered more gems with the two of you in the short time you were on stage than I’ve done on the whole speaking program. I resisted buying products from you but had to succumb in the end and am absolutely delighted to be part of the EDGE community. I am working through the Lady and the Champ material and can’t wait to receive my ‘Create Your Keynote’. It was good to meet you both and hope to see you in Vegas.
I saw you both at Reading. You were awesome.
Forget the American – British thing. Yes we have differences but I think people use these generalisations to stay within their comfort zone. Did I feel uncomfortable when Ed got is dancing- you bet. But then I thought I am not being judged here. And so what if I was – put the ego aside and have some fun.
We are all here to learn and have the best experience we can. Stepping outside our comfort zone is good every once in a while. As speakers and trainers we expect our audiences to step outside their comfort zone, so why shouldn’t we?
The content you both offered and the learning I took away was way more valuable than feeling uncomfortable for a few minutes.
The fact that you were totally upfront about what you were doing was refreshing. Too many times I have heard apologies for selling from the stage or speakers trying to manipulate you into buying their product. Let me taste the cheesecake first. If I like what I taste I will buy it. If not I will go somewhere else – my choice.
I have seen some British speakers who are twice as annoying as Ed and Darren. It’s not about where we are from, it’s about how we connect and how authentic we are to ourselves and our audiences.
So you keep being American and we will keep being British and everyone else keep using the excuses to stay within your comfort zone.
Guess this whole thing refers to the sage advice: “to thine own self be true”.
or To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. William Shakespeare
Darren, Thank you. I have passed along many of your thoughts/teachings [I do site you as source and refer your YouTube sites.] Thank you for ‘you being you’.
I respect others and would not want them to not bring themselves should they come to America.
Just think: Could ask Patrica Fripp not to be Patrica Fripp. No. We would loose the value of the message.
Thank you. Paul