I originally wrote this article originally for Influencive. You can view it here
Billionaire Warren Buffett once told a class of Columbia University students, “Right now, I would pay $100,000 for 10% of the future earnings of any you, so if you’re interested, see me after class.” After the laughter quieted down, he said, “Now, you can improve your value by 50% just by learning ONE thing – communication skills, specifically Public Speaking. If that is the case, see me after class and I’ll pay you $150,000.”
We have all been told about the importance of public speaking and how it can impact our business, career, success, and our income. Make no mistake: this is one of the most important skills you can develop. But, where do we start? How do we learn the critical skills to deliver a great speech?
I’ve always made a practice of accelerating my learning by seeking out the best in their fields and either partnering or convincing them to coach and train me. When I want to accelerate my ability in presenting and speaking, I turn to one person, Thom Singer. Thom is one of America’s top speakers and MCs. He is a CSP that has delivered over 800 speeches in his career, written 12 books on the subjects of speaking, entrepreneurship, and success, and has interviewed over 350 CEOs and business leaders on his podcast, “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do.” When I decided to write an article on how to crush your next speaking appearance, I reached out to Thom and asked him, “What are the critical elements of a great speech? Is there a secret formula?”
Here is what he said…
There are five things that make a great speech: relevance to the audience, a highly prepared speaker, the connection the speaker makes to the participants, the stories told, and actionable content.
What Makes a Speaker Relevant?
Not every speaker is the right fit for every audience. Too often, meetings are looking to “fill slots”, but great events have presentations that are tailored to the needs of each audience. This means that the speaker not only needs to have content, but they must make that content matter. For too long, we have been told that “Content is King”, but just because someone is smart does not make them a great speaker. Instead, it is about context. How the speaker takes their content and creates a bridge to the needs of the people listening is what matters. If you hear a speaker at a convention of plumbers and then at a conference of lawyers and they do not change any part of their talk, they are not really being relevant. The content alone can be the same, but the context must be customized for every audience.
Can a Subject Matter Expert Wing It?
Or Do Speakers Prepare for Each Talk?Anyone who says they can “wing it” is going to come up short. No great speaker ever wings their presentations. Great presentations have a lot of preparation. People mistakenly think that TED and TEDx talks are great because they are short. The reality is the best TED and TEDx talks were written, re-written, and rehearsed. I put in 40 hours when I did a TEDx Talk, and each time I speak for an association or company I easily put in 4-8 hours of customized planning. Preparation is the foundation of a memorable speech.
What Is It That Makes Some Speakers Connect More With Audiences?
The personality of the speaker matters. Not just on stage, but before and after the talk when they are mingling with the audience, how they engage with people does matter. When I say personality, I am not referring to them being “bubbly” or “outgoing”; many more reserved people make great speakers. It is hard to describe the X Factor, but the speakers who have that little extra spark will connect. A lot of it has to do with their motivation. Being a speaker involves some level of ego, but the ones that deeply connect with a whole audience keep their ego in check and are there to serve others.
Why Do Stories Matter?
Humans are wired to remember stories. If you go back thousands of years, we learned via elders telling stories. Studies have shown we remember a story longer than we remember a fact or figure. But in our world of big data, too many people love to pepper their speech with graphs and charts. But data without a story will be quickly forgotten. I recently was getting on an airplane, and another passenger asked me if I was the speaker who presented at an insurance industry event several years earlier. When I said “yes,” he told me he always remembers the story I told about my daughter, Kate. Even after many years, he even remembered her name. Finding the right stories for a speech is not hard, but it must be intentional, and the story must have a purpose in supporting the overall message. But the right story can forever anchor that speaker in the minds of the audience.
What Separates a Powerful Speaker From Just Entertainment?
Getting people to take action is the difference between a powerful talk and an entertaining speech. While some people roll their eyes at the idea of “Motivational Speakers” (remember, Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live painted motivational speakers as frauds who lived in vans down by the river), the truth is all speakers should approach their talks as motivational. What is the opposite of motivation? De-motivating. Too many speakers do just that. They bore people with their brilliance and do nothing to get them to want to act. If a speaker is going to do more than fill a slot in the agenda, they must know their purpose in getting people to take action. When people are moved to do something new or different, you are impacting their future.
So, there you have it, 5 powerful secrets to crush your next speaking appearance from Thom Singer. Now, it’s your turn to “take action” and use them to make a difference.
This isn't an article about failing and failing forward. Much of what you hear about how to get out of your comfort zone these days is around seeking failure, pushing yourself in ways that you haven't before, and learning from the mistakes you make. Those are all helpful in getting out of your comfort zone, but there is something more important. It starts before you do any of that.
Whether you realize it or not, you are comfortable in your life. I can say this because most people haven't taken the time to "kick their own ass" in while. When is the last time you sat back and critiqued yourself and your performance? I'm not talking about getting down on yourself. Heaven knows the majority of people do way to much of that unnecessarily and inflict negative pain on themselves.
Instead, what I am talking about is positive pain. I'm talking about stepping back, asking if you are truly pushing things to edge of your potential, and whipping your butt back into shape in this area. The reason pushing yourself to fail and the traditional "get out of your comfort zone" advice doesn't work for a lot of people is because they haven't made the choice within to truly get out of their comfort zone in the first place. They haven't made the choice to embrace and endure the positive pain they need to go through to really break free.
Just about everything you want in your life is outside your current comfort zone. But, instead of continuously talking about it or lamenting about it - make the choice.
For example, maybe you are currently working 8 hours a week on the side on your dream and you know it's not enough to get you there, but "that's all the time I have..." B.S. If you know you need to be working 20 hours a week to make it happen, do it. Make the choice. Embrace the pain. If you are used to sleeping 8 hours a day, you may have to start going on 6. If you are used to living a certain lifestyle, you may have to sacrifice it in the short term, for an even better lifestyle long term.
It all comes down to choice. Either you really want it or your don't. Most people say they want things when they really don't because they aren't willing to do what it takes to get them. In reality, the things they want are not worthy of what it will take to get them. And that is OK. Get those things off your mind and ask yourself what is really worthy of what it will take. Then focus intently, almost obsessively on going after them. Make the choice - not excuses, embrace the positive pain and changes you will have to make for things to happen, and then act. Go. Now.
How to Stop Living With Mediocrity
Let's have a frank discussion. You are not living up to your potential. Deep down you know it. I know it. And I'm just as guilty of it as you are.
Now, I know you don't get up everyday and say to yourself, "I can't wait to have a mediocre day and not live up to my potential today," but that is what the majority of people do. This happens because we get comfortable at an operating level in our lives. Our "thermostat" gets set to a certain level and we are held there.
Mediocrity is deceiving because it not the worst we can do, but it is not the best we can do. It is somewhere in the middle and we justify it by saying to ourselves that we are "trying" or "my effort is good enough."
But ask yourself, is that where you want to be? Do you want to just be "good enough" or average? I know your answer is "No." You were meant to live and operate at the edge of your ability, not a step below it. Besides, when you operate in mediocrity, you get mediocre results and no one really wants that.
What if instead, you resolved to operate at a level of excellence in all areas of your life? What if you set a new standard for yourself and others? Instead of coming down to work at the mediocre levels of others, you bring them up to your level of excellence? What do you think would happen? How would your life change.
In the end, everything comes down to habits and choices. You can choose which level you will operate your life at, excellence, mediocrity, or worse. And your habits enforce your choices.
If you want to stop living in mediocrity, it simply starts as a choice and then action through your daily, weekly, and monthly habits. So, where do you start besides making the choice? Tom Ziglar once said to me, "The fastest way to success is to replace a bad habit with a good habit." I don't think it is any easier than that. Pick one bad habit of mediocrity and replace it with one good habit of excellence. Once you've done that, pick the next one and so on. You'll be amazed where you are in just a few months and your life will totally change in less than a year. Start living at the edge of your potential and ability!
With the end of the year coming up, it's a great time to get in some solid personal growth to start the new year. Throughout the course of the year, I endeavor to read at least 2 new books per month.
Every book is typically very good and thought-provoking, but once in a while, some books really stand above the rest.
Here are 3 of the most outstanding books I've found in 2018 that you should consider reading prior to 2019 to help you with your personal growth.
Wealth For All by Idowu Koyenikan
I found this obscure book by chance. I was looking for a quote for one of the Misfit Minute newsletters and came across a wonderful quote from Idowu. I had never heard of him, so I looked him up and saw his book. It was a short read with some great topics, so I picked it up. I was surprised to find it as insightful and refreshing as it is. Many of the topics covered in it are ones you've heard before, but Idowu has a way to cut through the noise and go straight to the point and the action you need to do to really make these principles work in your life. Idowu delivers in 3 pages what many authors take 25 to do.
Redefine Impossible by James Lawrence aka The Iron Cowboy
This is a book about the potential of us as human beings and how far we truly can push ourselves. Maybe it is because I am an endurance athlete and Ironman participant, but this book really made me think about the limits we place on ourselves and how to lift them. James completed 50 full Ironman races in 50 days in 50 states - in a row. That is not a typo. Each day, James got up, swam 2.4 miles, biked 112, and ran a marathon for 50 days straight. There are so many lessons this book teaches about life and business that, endurance athlete or not, you can take and use. And, it is an awesome story as well.
Non-Business Book: Killing the SS by Bill O'reilly and Martin Dugard
In your personal growth routine, you should always mix in some non-business related material. For me, that is studying history. I absolutely love history and am amazed at how little of it is taught in our schools. Most people have no clue of the history of even their own country, let alone the world. And there is gold there. So much to learn about where we have been and where are going - and how history does truly repeat itself. Killing the SS is the story of hunting down the most vial and despicable Nazi leaders that escaped after WWII. It is shocking who helped them escape and what it took to bring many of them to justice. This book is a riveting story from start to finish that I read in about 2 days. It is chilling and shocking what we don't know about this era in history. And there are a lot of lessons we can take from it.
There are a lot of things needed to make someone successful. Focus, determination, great habits, maximizing opportunities, never giving up, and so on.
But, there is one thing that people miss or don't deliberately focus on that makes a major difference in their ability to succeed. In fact, it is the reason that so many people settle for mediocrity in their lives.
The one thing?
Creating high standards for themselves.
When was the last time you sat down and asked yourself, "What are my standards?" "What are my standards for my life? My business? My relationships?"
Whether you realize it or not, you are living up to some standard. And the thing is, with the way our minds work, whatever that set of standards may be is the limitations your mind has set on itself.
For example, if you're standard for a making a lot of money is $100k; you're probably making that much or less - but not more.
You were meant to live and function at the edge of your ability, not just using a small percentage of it.
If you want to up your game, up your standards. If you want to be more, do more, give more, and live at a higher level - create the standards that hold you accountable to do so.
Do it. Today. Create one new standard to hold yourself to and see what happens. You'll be amazed at what it does for your life and success.
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