When I first moved to Las Vegas 10 years ago I was 40 years old. Vegas was a whole new world to me and a bit of a culture shock. I had typically kept my hair short with biweekly buzz cuts with a #1 or a #2 comb. It was quick, simple, and inexpensive. One month, however, I had a particularly busy travel schedule and was not able to get my hair cut as usual. I filmed a last-minute promo video in a comedy club for our upcoming Humor Boot Camp®. When I got home and looked at the footage, I was shocked. Yikes! That wasn’t me! I looked like my dad on that video. I love my dad, but I was not ready to look like him just yet. “That’s it! I’m shaving my head from now on!”
And so it was. Seeing my Julius Caesar crown hairstyle was all I could take at 40. From then on, I have shaved my head. I never got a buzz cut again. It was no longer a #1 or a #2; it was a zero. Seeing myself on video that day was the catalyst, or, as Patricia Fripp would call it, “The inciting incident.”
You lived one way • Inciting Incident • You lived differently
Glenna Salsbury, CSP, CPAE, taught me early on in my career to look for those lessons in your life that transformed you. Those are the lessons we transfer to our audiences. It’s so simple. Why don’t more speakers do that? Well, some of them don’t know about it, and some are not willing to take the time to mine their lives for the gold that is there. People search for stories outside themselves or, worse, take other people’s great stories and try to adapt them to sound like their own. Never do that. You have true value inside you. You just have to know where to look and what to do with it once you find it.
Another example of misuse is the improper use of quotes in a speech. We should not use a quote in a speech just for the sake of trying to look profound or well read. Someone could say that I used a famous quote in my World Championship Speech from Brian Tracy. True. However, hearing that quote changed how I lived my life.
I lived one way • Heard quote • I lived differently
Hearing the Brian Tracy quote, “What would you dream if you knew you wouldn’t fail,” literally changed my life path. Hearing it was the inciting incident. I’m sure tens of thousands of people have heard that quote, but did it change them? Liking a quote is not reason enough to use it in a speech. We can help transform our audiences when we take the time to mine our lives, find our own transformations, and turn them into message-filled stories. They are more powerful when you are willing to be transparent.
What quotes changed you? What are the incidents, good and bad, that created the life you live today? How did it happen? When did it happen? What’s the story around it? I love this line from a character on Seinfeld,
“That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!”
We don’t have to look outside of ourselves to find our power. We need to take the time to look inside to find the stories and moments that made us who we are. Who we are makes us uniquely qualified to help people with challenges similar to our own. As Mark Brown, 1995 WCPS, says,
“You have a story to tell, and someone needs to hear it.”
What’s your inciting incident? An even better question for you is, “What are your inciting incidents?” Plural. Start keeping track of them. Start or add to your story file. Make it a video, a blog post, or a story in your presentation. Take some time to meditate and find them. Look at some of your good and bad habits. Where did they start and why? Everyone has learned lessons in life. As a speaker, we can turn our darkest hours and transformational moments into gifts for the audience. Every time we get to stand in front of an audience, consider it a chance to pay it forward.
What ideas did this article give you? What inciting incidents do you already talk about on stage? Please post.
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