Saturday, June 15, 2013

Go with the flow

In the past I have likened public speaking to going to the dentist – painful and nerve-racking - neither were my favourite ways to spend my time.

But you know what, I learned something about myself last week. I’ve come a long way.  As some of you will have read through LinkedIn or Facebook, I was speaking at the convocation for Sheridan College grads at the Living Arts Centre. 

It was the largest group graduating with over 400 grads in their finest, strutting across the stage.  One by one, the grads, mainly female, would totter past me in these amazing shoes, with heels that looked like lethal weapons

The place was packed with close to 1,500 people in attendance, and as a speaker I was sitting on the stage for close to three hours, waiting for my turn.  What I hadn’t realized was that I would be the last to speak.  Being last after a long evening, has to be the worst gig, ever. 

The longer the ceremony went, the shorter my speech became in my head. Now it wasn’t actually in my head, I had written it and then shortened it down to a few bullet points, but even that was going to be too long.  I just knew it.  So what did I do?

I surrendered and gave up the speech I was going to give.  I didn’t even look at my notes.  Instead, I made some wise cracks that tied in with what previous presenters had said which got everyone laughing, made two or three key points, and then sat down.

As for the profound, meaningful quote from Mark Twain that I’d planned to end on, it went by the wayside too.  I just said “Congratulations, now go party.”

My lesson from all this is that you really do have to be flexible, gauge your audience and adapt to what they want to hear.  Otherwise, you’ve lost them.

And as for my closing remarks – now the grads liked that advice!

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