I sat there in the audience at the National Speakers Association Convention and prepared to watch my friend, Mike Rayburn, CSP, CPAE, give his speech. He was about to perform his brand new keynote that he had been working on for over eleven months, some 1,100 hours. His preparation was intense. I can honestly say that I don’t personally know of anyone who had prepared as much as Mike had for that one speech.
Mike is an amazing guitarist, and his subject for this presentation was “Being a Virtuoso.” I was blown away. It was one of the best keynote speeches I’ve ever seen. Period. Though I may be biased, it would be hard to be in his audience and not be awestruck. I also believe that part of the value of a keynote speech is the mindset that each audience member brings to the speech. As audience members, are we open to learning a new perspective, or are we out to prove that we already know enough?
Your first question might be, “What is a speaking virtuoso?” Well, let’s start with definition.
Collins English Dictionary defines Virtuoso as a person who has a masterly or dazzling skill or technique in any field of activity.
This does not mean that you have to be literally the best. I believe that after we reach a high level of professionalism, we then differentiate on our strengths and style. Mastery or a dazzling skill also implies passion and a mindset of striving to be even better. It has been said that school is never out for the pro, but mastery is a constant state of mind.
What made Mike’s speech so amazing? I think it was a blend of decades of experience and the perfect example of his message. He wasn’t just talking; he was also showing. Mike has had an aversion to PowerPoint slides. I don’t think he’s ever used them, which is quite unique these days for keynote speakers. He is not a fan of using technology in his presentation, period. He said that part of being a virtuoso means embracing what we don’t like. Forcing yourself into what scares you. So, he skipped over PowerPoint and did something amazing. Mike used a hologram of himself.
He actually played a song while dueling with his own hologram. Mike played alongside Mike. It was an amazing sight and experience. What a perfect example of literally pushing yourself beyond what you have ever done before. The expense, the time, and the preparation all paid off. 1,100 hours for a thirty-minute keynote. Huge bonus: Mike will now forever be at a higher level in all he does. That is what virtuosos do.
Naysayers might have considered it a high-tech show technique. If you look deeper, the fact is that it reinforced his message on many levels. That is what a keynote should do. That also is being a virtuoso. He lived his message. Do you?
Where did Mike’s mindset come from? One line that he said still rings in my head. Though he started his musical career in college playing at bars, he kept striving for mastery. He had many mentors and gurus from whom he learned along the way. He was involved in many mastermind groups that kept Mike pushing Mike. The line he said during this performance that still sticks in my head:
Wow. That, in my mind, is the essence of being a virtuoso. Mike literally wrote music he could not play alone, and then he found a way to play it. What a great example of pushing yourself. You and I can apply this not only to our presenting, but also to all areas of our life. How could you apply this idea to your personal relationships, your finances, and even parenting? I know I have had times when I have been a virtuoso and other times when I have coasted. What matters is how you define a virtuoso and your commitment to being one. Will you write music you can’t play and then find a way to play it?
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