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Speakers: What To Do When You Lose Your Place

make a point tell a story series Aug 09, 2018

It's been a wonderful and crazy week here in Orlando for the John Maxwell Team event. I've been honored to serve 3000+ members for these past 4 days.

I wondered what story I could share with you this week and I decided I would pinch my lovely wife Susan's thoughts she shared on her blog yesterday (you can read the entire post here). See what you think ..

The speaker training "stage time" experience here at the International Maxwell Certification is... nuts. Observing the whole process from start to finish, you see the hard work - the blood, sweat and tears that go into creating a truly memorable speech for the audience. The disappointment if not selected, sometimes the anger - normally borne out of some shame or fear around not being chosen...  You see the elation of those that worked so hard, perhaps not being selected 1, 2 or 3 times and when it's finally their moment - they completely nail their presentation... so much so, it seems almost "effortless".

One of the critical parts of the pre-event training is: "if you lose your way... just find your way back to your story". I love it when Roddy says this. It's such a simple truth and such a comfort, he says "it's your story, you KNOW it, so don't stop - don't time out - don't put the mic down... just find your way back... Find your way back to your story". Even in practice, just keep going...

You know when you go see your kid in a school play and they have like, 3 lines and you know every one off by heart? You have to stop yourself from saying the words out loud as you mouth along with them - feeling so nervous for them in case they forget? That's what I'm like when the participants are up there. A complete ball of nerves.

We had maybe 3 or 4 speakers this time that lost their way a little, and happily they all found their way back to their story. During the pause, or the slight shift in the flow I start whispering out loud, "c'mon... you got this!" and they took a breath and all was well. 

The audience don't know what happened, or what was meant to happen - but I do, so when they find their way back - I'm ecstatic. And relieved!

I just love the simplicity of the statement "just find your way back to your story" - it's soothing and supportive but it's also an empowering and powerful mantra to have in your head if you get lost.

I don't think it just applies to stage time though.

I was talking to A yesterday, and she is incredible on stage - confident and commanding. Her speaking is so good, but she hasn't found that "signature story" yet. We agreed she had 'more in the tank' so much more to give the audience. And there it was again, that expression, in my head... "find your way back to your story". I think all great speakers go through that added process of really grafting and crafting out every story.

Making the points stellar, not just shiny. 

There are some speakers that have grasped the elementary techniques of public speaking and stick to what I would call a pedestrian performance. I don't mean that in a negative way, they just shine by doing a great job of an "ok story".

Going that extra mile, to find your way back to your story can be the difference between a good speaker and a truly great one.


It's so true - 'finding your way back to your story' is such a great technique for us as speakers and communicators. I wonder, next time you deliver a speech or set out to craft your next keynote - can you remember to journey back in your mind to the story that really counts - the one where the authentic and real you shines through?

Until next time .. 

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Communicating is not just about words. We need to think about our body language, tone, and pacing. How we feel impacts the way we speak. Struggling to find the right content makes us ineffective. Great speakers know that becoming an exceptional speaker isn't just an art - it's a process with many essential elements.

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