#26 – Show Up

This is #26 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.” Here’s another one you might enjoy.


Years ago, just after launching my business as a leadership coach and organizational consultant, I decided to market myself through speaking engagements. Organizations like the Rotary Club need a new speaker every week and this newly minted sole-practitioner needed both the practice and the exposure.

I secured a listing in Rotary’s online speaker’s bureau for San Diego county and was fortunate to receive a few invitations. One of these was a lunchtime engagement for a club about 30 miles from my home. I was assured that this was a lively and well-attended meeting, with “at least 20 to 25” participants on a regular basis.

I was diligent in my preparation, I dressed for success and I showed up plenty early for the event. Upon arrival, the well-inflated balloon of my anticipation started to leak a little air. At first it was because the restaurant’s “private meeting room” was no more than a converted back-room storage area just off the kitchen. This means that it was both small and noisy.

The loss of air continued when, at five minutes before noon there were only four people there. If you know anything about Rotary you know that it is a punctual organization. I’ve been to at least a dozen different clubs over the years and not one has failed to start on time.

It seemed a long shot that four people was going to turn into “at least 20 to 25” in the next few minutes so I launched into what can only be described as a good, strong sulk. Picking at my Cobb salad I felt a warm rush of self-pity punctuated with the question, “What the hell am I doing here? I dressed my best, prepared myself and drove all this way, and for what?” 

I felt cheated, for sure, and worse than that, I was stuck.

When it was obvious that the meeting was about to begin and there were, and would only be, six people in attendance, I snapped out of it and made a decision. I saw the faces of my mentors looking back at me, I examined the truth of my own intentions and I decided that if I was going to do this, I wasn’t just going to survive it, I was going to make a splash. I found a way to turn that surge of self-pity into a surge of productive energy and I decided to speak to those six people no differently that I would speak to 60 or even 600.

I decided to give them all I had. I gave them my very best.

As a result – would you believe it? – one of those six thrust a business card into my hand and invited me to meet with his organization. That meeting, just days later, turned into a bona fide project that itself became a multi-year engagement. It was the most significant financial transaction of my first year in business, by far. It is the reason that my business got off the ground and that seven fortunate and meaningful years later I can look back on it with so much pride and appreciation.

All of that because I decided to show up, not just to fulfill an expectation, but to give myself the gift of being able to look in the mirror with the pride of full commitment. I needed that badly and I also needed a reminder of what I will never forget: that it is never my place to predict or assume the outcome of my efforts. It is only my place to do the very best that I can do and trust that the rest will take care of itself.


city skateboard skate

Photo by Salvio Bhering on Pexels.com

 

One Minute

One minute is longer than you think.

In class today, my colleague and I had our students give one minute presentations. We put a selection of topics in a bag, had them each blindly draw one out and after a few moments of reflection, speak about that subject for one minute.

They talked about money, achievement, finals week, 5 years from now…, gratitude, confidence, networking, an embarrassing moment, etc.

What I learned is that in one minute it is entirely possible to effectively communicate an idea with the support of an example or a story.

As a concept I imagine this rings true, nothing earth shattering here. But as a practice, I encourage you to try it. See if, like many of my students, you can smoothly articulate an initial reaction to a subject and then support it with an example from your personal experience.

We wanted our students to feel both the pressure and the potential that comes with brief opportunities to be heard. It became obvious to me that developing this ability will make them not only effective networkers but excellent dinner guests, colleagues and leaders, too.

10, 25, 45

I’m very interested in public speaking. I enjoy doing it and I enjoy listening to a great speaker. It’s a wonderful, even essential skill to develop for anyone who wants to have more influence, for those who wish to lead.

To that end, for those aspiring to increase their influence through public speaking, I’d like to suggest that you develop three talks of differing lengths; 10, 25 and 45 minutes.

Your 10-minute talk is one big idea supported by one story.

Your 25-minute talk is one big idea supported by two stories.

Your 45-minute talk is one big idea supported by two stories plus 5-7 minutes of audience conversation about how they feel about what you’ve been saying (because no one wants to sit for 45 minutes without a chance to talk…about themselves) and 5-7 more minutes devoted to their sharing of what they just said.

Two takeaways: first, you deliver one big idea, and only one big idea. Second, your talk isn’t about you, it’s about them. The longer you have to speak the more space you should create for your audience to do so.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

To be powerful

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

– Audre Lorde

There is liberation in this quote: you don’t have to conquer your fear, you just have to make it less important.

How? By using your strength in service of your vision.

So then, if you want to quiet the voice of your fear, two other voices must be amplified.

The voice of your vision. Where are you going? Why are you going there? What is it that is yours to do?

The voice of your strength. How do you demonstrate your best self? What do you do that brings you fully alive?

Speak your vision. Speak your strength. Let your fear become a fading whisper.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.