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!