I’ve done my fair share of public speaking before, but last month I did something that was completely out of my comfort zone: I gave a keynote presentation to a group of 300+ entrepreneurs.
It wasn’t really the size of the group that made this different. It was the kind of talk I was giving.
I read recently that a keynote is often 75% entertainment, 25% education. For somebody who isn’t a natural entertainer, that feels daunting.
Sure, it would have been easy to create an outline with accompanying slides and attempt to wing it. Considering my level of experience, the end result could fairly be categorized as “my best”.
But I was determined to use this as an opportunity to raise the bar for what I could define as “ my best”.
Raising the Bar Requires Outside Help
I’ve found that raising my own standard requires looking outside of myself.
This seems like an obvious fact, but I find that most people – including myself – want to default to what we can do on our own, by ourselves.
In this example of speaking, I defaulted to the following:
- I read a book on speaking (Steal the Show to be exact);
- I watched a lot of keynote presentations on YouTube;
- I researched speaking tips and ideas online;
These were all very valuable steps to take, but each of them rely on my ability to learn a skill, apply what I’m learning and then properly judge myself.
We don’t expect an elementary student to teach themselves, do we?
As uncomfortable as it felt, I was determined to get real feedback from real people who had really done it before. In this case:
- I recorded my talk and send it to other established speakers for feedback;
- I presented my talk to real people before the event;
I’m sure there’s more that I could have done, but this was all I had time for here.
Raising the Bar Requires Preparation
You’ve probably heard the saying before, but I’ll share it here again:
In high school, I had a friend named Alex who was an accomplished concert pianist. As in, he-went-to-Juilliard kind of accomplished.
One year, we both attended the same piano competition and, unfortunately, I didn’t end up doing too well.
“Man, I practiced so much, but I still wasn’t able to get that piece right” I told him.
He looked at me and said, “Josh, it’s not the practice that makes perfect. It’s perfect practice that makes perfect”.
That thought was stuck in my head as I was preparing for this keynote. I probably practiced this talk 50 times in my living room until I could do it perfectly each time.
But it wasn’t just practicing what I would say. At the recommendation of a mentor, I also:
- Practiced holding a microphone in one hand and the clicker in the other since I had asked beforehand and found out the venue only had handheld wireless mics.
- Practiced without my slides, in case technology failed during the event.
- Practiced with the props I would use (it was embarrassing how often I forgot to use them during my practice!).
Above you’ll see my son’s nunchuck that I used as my “microphone”, the mouse that would be my “clicker” and my prop hat.
Raising the Bar Requires Confidence
Thankfully, good preparation usually breeds confidence.
But in my experience, no amount of preparation can fend off the self-defeating thoughts that often plague us when we’re trying move to that next level.
You’re out of your league.
You don’t belong here.
You’re just a poser.
Confidence doesn’t come from being the “world’s best” or foremost expert on a subject matter because, frankly, very few of us are ever going to hold that title.
Confidence comes from having two things: integrity and identity.
- Integrity means that I’m not “faking it until I make it”. I’m being honest with where I’m at and where I want to be.
- Identity is knowing that who I am isn’t based on what others think. I’ve already wrestled with my identity and come out on the other side confident that I have been uniquely created by God to fulfill a purpose, not a job.
No matter how many stages I get to stand on, whether to talk, preach or lead worship, I never want to walk on with the attitude that I deserve to be here.
I’d rather have the confidence of knowing that I’ve prepared well, I’m living with integrity and my identity is not reliant on whether or not I can successfully “raise the bar”.
Raising the Bar Requires Reflection
This final step of raising the standard of “my best” is proper reflection. This is where I’m at right now, and part of why I’m writing this.
I’m proud of the end result (which you can watch below), but I also recognize that a few years from now I’ll probably look back and cringe just a little bit. I’ll shake my head and think “I’ve come a long way since then…“.
We’ve all heard the boxing analogy that says “It’s not how many times you get knocked down…it’s how many times you get back up”.
While this is true, I like to add a few extra words to the end so it goes like this:
Do you see the difference there?
In this moment for me, refection is taking the time to watch my talk with a critical eye. A time to take note of the things that I should have done differently. A time to request honest feedback from others in the industry.
I didn’t get “knocked down” per se, but I did get in the ring and I know there are still so many valuable lessons I can learn.
…here you go. I prepared well and I worked hard. Now, I welcome your constructive feedback 🙂
For those who are interested, you can visit my speaking page to learn more about what I do and where I plan to go with this.