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notes from a toastmaster's talk i gave titled JUST DO IT ... AGAIN.

not all minutes are created equal.

my next five minutes are going to be VERY different from YOUR next five minutes,
even though we are all sitting in the same room, breathing the same air, experiencing the same event.
part of me would love to trade places with many of you sitting comfortably & safely in your chairs right now.
the opposite is probably not so true.

because not all minutes are created equal.


in their massively famous "just do it" campaign,
nike got it partly right. mostly right. you should just do it.
but for real gains, meaningful improvement, personal growth
it is not enough to just do it BUT we have to do it again ... and again ... and again.
(admittedly, "just do it AGAIN" wasn't nearly as sexy as "just do it", so we got what we got.)

nike's core audience, athletes, live by this wash, rinse, and repeat credo.
fact is it governs the life of virtually every athlete regardless of their level or sport.
how many times do you think a gymnast has done their floor routine before an olympic audience witnesses it?
how many laps do you think chris sherman has swam to chisel out his wildly impressive body that i always talk about?
how many plies (pron. plee-yays) do you think our newly minted member n. king has done before entertaining audiences for pay?

this sport, speechcraft, is not so different.
for instance, how many times to you think i practiced this talk before sharing it with you today?
i'll give you a hint. it was more than once.


i love toastmasters but i think there is a gaping hole in their teaching.
we are taught the art of creating and delivering a speech.
we are taught that once that speech has been given and its evaluation is in the book,
to turn our attention to to the next speech, the next manual, the next credential.
what is not enforced enough, in my eyes, is the art of "perfecting" a speech.
if you wish to truly master this craft, we need to be less quick about this moving on part.

i have taken some heat in this environment over my beliefs
namely because i have not been advancing as rapidly as the organization thinks i should.
i gave seven talks in my first year in the club, and technically none since.
(today concludes my third year of membership.)
but i have given three of my talks four times.
and one of them five times.
and one of them for $1200.
and i did a six-minute talk that got me fifty thousand dollars.
but i get no credit for those re-dos.
it's as if they never happened.
even though through the prep and practice i did for those talks,
i could have completed two, maybe even three of their manuals.

*** THE WHY ***

why does redoing a talk matter? how is it different from doing a new talk?
you're just talking. who cares if the content is fresh or not?
remember earlier how i said that right now what you and i are experiencing is different?
you are working to absorb and understand what i'm saying.
i'm working, frenetically so, to make my message coherent and interesting to you.

during the talk, my mind is evaluating every sentence i utter, while preparing for the next in the queue.
you don't see that chaotic dance.
my mind knows when i dropped a word or a sentence. you don't see that either.
you also don't get to hear the argument going on in my head right now where they're saying
"shit-he just missed that sentence. what are we going to do?"
and they're yelling at each other.
"why'd he leave it out. that was a great sentence."
so while i'm trying to continue my talk there's a full-on debate going on about wether or not i can save it or not.
or if you will forever be deprived of those two beautifully crafted sentences.
right now my mind is saying run out of the room. that's the only way to save it.
thankfully, you don't get to hear any of that.

what i'm getting at here is that I, the speaker, see's a whole lot you, the audience, does not.
this means the speaker is the one, the only one really, that can best tell how close a talk is getting to its true potential.
the speaker knows their skill level, how many mistakes were made, how much effort they gave. no one else see's all of that.
the one thing i can say with confidence is the first version of a talk will never be the best version of a talk.
unless your initials are JFK or MLK, it just ain't gonna happen.
and that is what a re-do has over a new talk.

now of course this rigor does not apply to all talks.
just like with minutes, not all talks are created equal.
but what is important is that you know WHEN a talk requires more
AND more importantly, when a talk does require more, you know HOW to give more.
because while not all talks will require this spit and polish some in your life and career will.
  • a work talk
  • a wedding toast
  • a teaching opportunity
  • a eulogy for a friend, a sibling, a parent, a spouse
when you are called to give that talk that matters, you don't want it to be the first time you're flexing these muscles.

*** THE HOW ***

so let's talk about HOW to approach a re-do.
there's lots of good news in the folds here.
the first bit of good news is the first time you give a talk is absolutely, every time, without exception the the hardest time.
it will never be that hard again. i promise.
the reason for that is after you go through that initial experience you get lots of valuable information in return.
  • you have your internal sense for how the talk went
  • you have your evaluator feedback
  • you have the audience reaction
  • you have "the tape" we are super fortunate to get -- thanks steve
with all of this in hand it is almost impossible to not do better the next time.
and leveraging all of that is the easist bit of all.
all you do is shortly after the talk is done, write down your thoughts and your reflections about your performance.
  • what went well.
  • what could have gone better.
  • listen to the feedback and get those points down as well.
in the end, you're just kinda writing yourself a letter.
after you've recorded your thoughts, file it away with the talk.
if you ever are called to give it again, the first thing you'll find are your notes.
step through them making adjustments as you see fit.
the next version of the talk will obviously and absolutely be stronger than the last talk.
if you need to do it again, keep using this same approach, each iteration of the talk will be better.

more good news. this doesn't just help re-do's.
i recommend you do this for every talk you ever do wether you think you may do it again or not.
even if you never give a talk again, this practice will bleed into your new talks.
as you will see mis-steps and shortcomings re-appearing so you will adjust things proactively to break the pattern.
need better transitions. use simpler language. breath more. pause more.
whatever it may be.

and here's the best news of all.
that's all there is to it.
that's all you have to do.
write a letter to yourself when it's over.
it is for sure the easiest part of the public speaking process.


some argue that the only thing we are universally good at teaching people to do is teaching children how to walk.
when a child is learning to walk we let them try, we let them struggle, we let them fall, we let them get hurt.
and each and every time they fall, we stand them up give them a pat on the bottom
and encourage them to try again, and again, and again.
and we don't stop doing that until they walk

we should apply this pedagogy to more than just walking.
we should apply it to anything we wish to learn, we wish to master.
you will struggle. you will fall. you will get hurt. you may even cry.
but you will also master that thing you repeatedly throw your will against.

how do i know this?
because we all got into this room under our own power and ability.
we all have this ability in us.
each and every one of us.
all we need to do is just do it.
and then, do it again and again and again.




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