Sunday, August 22, 2010

Speaking Season - 7, 8, 9 of 107

My day in Lincoln started a bit late - slept in. With just one night in Lincoln, I packed everything up and headed out to the High School I would be speaking at at 1, 3, and 5 pm.

Didn't follow the same dietary plan today - did a McDonalds breakfast on the way, and about 2 o'clock the team went out for some fruit smoothies and returned with one for me - an excellent pick-me-up. I had energy for the day, but I can't say it was derived from the healthiest of choices. Dinner was an excellent Prime Rib at Misty's in downtown Lincoln - not as good as last night, but still an A in my book.

After dinner, I drove for two hours to Sioux City, Iowa, where I'll get to settle in for two days and nights (finally, a chance to dryclean my suit!), and get a bit of a vacation of sorts, with only one presentation on Monday and again on Tuesday, both in the evening.

I tested some new material today, in the wake of mediocre results Saturday. Changed out my open, in favor of a story about going to the National Cemetery at Normandy, and my interaction with a student who refused to feel sad, and instead felt joy and appreciation towards those that sacrificed their lives in the campaign that helped turn the tide in World War II. Seemed to get the audiences attention right off the bat.

For two of the programs, the students would be heading to Rome to see the Colosseum. I likened it to Memorial Stadium, the home of the Nebraska Cornhusker football team, which dominates the scenery as you drive into the city. The parallel of gladiators, and the fact that the roots of stadiums everywhere start in Rome was also well received.

Can you imagine the Roman Public doing "The Wave"?

In addition, I made a joke about it being hard to admit the Nebraska football team were gladiators, since I was an Iowa Hawkeye fan - I followed this by welcoming them to the Big 10, which got a chuckle each time I used it. It was a customization that only works here - where football is king, the big news lately has been the University's defection from the Big 12 to the Big 10, and Iowa is a border rivalry state.

Early results seem to show that my changes were effective, and I certainly felt more energy on stage by changing up my message throughout the otherwise scripted presentation.

The two lessons from today, then, are these:

1. Test, Test, Test! You never know when you're going to find gold, and you need to be ready to jettison the lead that serves as dead weight in your presentations.

2. Customize - letting the audience know you understand them and their lives is an excellent way to connect. In this case, even though I was using a sports example, it fit both the situation of them going to Rome and the University town nature of Lincoln - in fact, the Cornhusker team is the pride of ALL of Nebraska, crossing over age, sex, and financial factors.

What can you do in your next presentation that you didn't do last time? Try something new, give the audience a reason to like you, and track the results. You'll be surprised at the results you'll create.


  1. I would think opening with any sort of WWII reference would fall on deaf ears for students today ("ancient history")! (Except a "Saving Private Ryan" reference, of course)

  2. Bob, I was similarly concerned, and briefly identify D-Day and its role in assuring our freedom today. It hits a chord with parents as well, which is the paying part of my audience, who may realize the importance of their child understanding history. (or not).

    Interesting though - had a dad tell me he sold his son on coming by putting in his video game and saying "See those beaches you're storming? That's where you'll go." Clever dad!



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