The #1 Skill of a Great Presenter

The Wedding Singer Paradox

I have been told that when I stand in front of an audience and deliver a presentation that I appear confident and unfazed by the size of the group I am speaking to. I think this is true because of four things:

  1. I know the topic really well.
  2. I have studied and practiced and I am ready to deliver.
  3. I am energized and excited to share with the audience what I know
  4. I am completely aware that I could be wrong – i.e. there are other smart people in the room!

By being competent and prepared and knowing that I have what it takes to deliver this message, I am confident and energized. By keeping in mind that there are other smart people in the room and I might not know everything there is to know on this subject, I infuse enough humility to ward off the appearance of arrogance that many speakers adopt as they grow in their expertise.

The Wedding Singer Paradox

So, with all that said, why did I waiver when asked to sing at a friends wedding this past weekend? Isn’t singing just another form of public speaking which I DO FOR A LIVING?? Yes and No!

Yes, there is an audience. Yes, I am prepared. Yes, there is a message to deliver. But, NO, it is not the same as doing a standup presentation. Why is that? Because singing is a skill that you either have or you don’t have. Everyone can speak, some better than others, but we all speak. Singing is judged! (think Reality TV shows). There is no “America’s Got Speaking Skills” TV Show, is there??

The Greatest Skill of All

Fortunately, in my early public speaking days I had a coach observe me and provide me feedback. What he shared with me changed my life as a professional speaker and this weekend, made even singing for people an enjoyable event. The greatest skill that I think a professional speaker (or an amateur singer) can possess is to remember that everyone in your audience is tuned to the same station – WII-FM (“What’s In It For Me”). They are not there to evaluate how you look, or sound, or how smart you are, which is where my brain instinctively wants to go. No, they are there for bigger reasons than YOU.

As I arrive at every venue where I will speak (or sing this past weekend) I arrive early enough to walk the room and ask myself, what is my message for this audience today? What nugget can I give them that will help them grow and be better? In the case of the wedding song, as much as I want to give a good performance and for everyone to be in awe of me and my talent, I forced my brain to think about the bride and groom and that this was their special day. No one, not one person, was there to see me sing. So I asked myself, what is the message of this song as it relates to the couple at the altar? What truth could this song provide to the 100+ people in the audience?

As the couple moved to light the unity candle and I walked to the microphone to deliver the song I had one last thought – let this be meaningful for those that need this message today. It’s not about me.

It’s Not About You!

The beauty of developing this skill is that after the performance you don’t have a need for people to flock to you and tell you how great you did. Although some will, and that feels good, it’s not what’s important. It’s not about the song, or my skill. It’s about the message and adding value to the lives of the people who were in that room on that day.

Keep your focus off of you and you can do amazing things in front of audiences of any size….whether your are speaking or singing.

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Read? Who Has Time to Read??

A Reading Plan the REALLY WORKS!

As I travel and speak to audiences around the world I always ask them about their personal development plan and how they are investing in themselves so they will be equipped to invest in others. Most people tell me they know they should be doing that, but they don’t have time. I was guilty of saying the same thing until I became intentional about investing a few minutes EVERY DAY in a reading plan that would help me be better in the areas of my interests. It changed my life!

When someone asks how they can get started reading, here is the plan I suggest:

A Reading Plan that Works

First, decide on the area(s) of your interest and choose a book. (You can also find podcasts, blogs, TED Talks, YouTube, etc. But keeping a book going will never let you down). I chose leadership, sales, coaching, personal development and team building because those are the areas where I speak the most. You can do a search for title on Amazon or ask an expert in your area of interest for a recommendation.

Second, set an Irreducible Minimum (the minimum you will do in a certain area every day that cannot be reduced). For your reading habit I suggest 2-pages a day. How often? EVERY DAY! Does that mean weekends and holidays? Ah yeah! Every day! Warning: Do not set high goals for reading, you will get behind, get frustrated and quit. A small, ridiculously small, goal that can be accomplished EVERY DAY will encourage you to keep going!

Third, decide how you will do your reading and make the necessary arrangements. I use a multifaceted approach:

  • Buy a physical book – I love real books and I have an amazing library, however, this is problematic for me because of my travel. Books get heavy and I usually want to have more than one with me. ((I like because my Prime membership gets it to me fast and free, but there are other retailers)
  • Buy a Kindle book (or get the Kindle app for your device) – eBooks are the rage. Prices are less than physical books, you can access them immediately, you can read them on a variety of devices, and they are easy to highlight and take notes. (I actually bought a physical Kindle because when I read on my iPad with the Kindle app I was distracted by all the other things my iPad can do, like email and web-surfing. The cool thing is that no matter which device I use, when I pick up the other one I am synced to my furthest read position.)
  • Buy an Audio book – I am a BIG fan of this. I consume the majority of my books via audio. This way I can “read” while I drive, fly or walk. I can listen to books while I cut my grass or paint that room my wife would like me to paint. I use You can get a free book at Audible if you want to try it. I buy a subscription that gives me a number of credits to download books to my phone when I am ready for a new one. One credit = one book.)

Fourth, execute! Read your two pages a day, every day. If you only read the two pages, it’s a win, you are done for the day. However, if you read more than two pages then it is bonus reading and it is a bigger win for you. This can be life changing, if you do it.

A Note About eBooks and Audio Books

Kindle and Audible are both owned by Amazon. When you buy the audio version you can also buy the Kindle version and the two will stay synced. Let’s say you listen in the car on the way home from work. Then after dinner you grab your Kindle or Kindle app and open the book, the device will ask you if you want to move forward to where you were listening. Amazon calls this WhisperSync.

Also, about highlighting and note taking; When using the Kindle or Kindle app you can highlight a passage (like with a yellow highlighter) with your finger. You may also type in a note of your own any time you like. When you do this, Amazon captures that highlight or note in the cloud and saves it to your Personal Kindle Highlights Page. Simply go to, click on Account & Lists, then click on Your Content & Devices. Every book you read should have a line item there that contains ALL your highlights and notes. In the past I would yellow highlight in a physical book and then have to go back and capture those highlights if I ever hoped to use them again. Now I underline with my finger, go to Amazon and find my highlights, copy them and paste them into Evernote (the free filing cabinet app) so now they become searchable. I never have an excuse now on not being able to find a note from a book I once read.

I usually start with an audio book. If it is spectacular and I know I need to dig deeper I will order the Kindle version. If after completing the audio and Kindle versions I still want the book for my library I might go on Amazon and by the hard copy. When the Amazon box shows up in the mailbox I can hear my wife asking me, “How many times did you buy that book??” Oops!

What do you do to keep your reading habit alive? (Comment below)

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5 Signs That Complacency is Killing Your Dreams

And What To Do About It!

Complacency is the silent killer of success. You enjoy some success and then you back off. You do something great and then you slow down. It’s human nature and something you must fight against. Here are five signs that complacency may be killing your dream, and what you can do about it.

1. You compare yourself to others to gauge your success

Legendary basketball coach, John Wooden said, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

Pro Tip: Don’t compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to the you that you are capable of becoming. Challenge yourself every day to grow in some small way.  Work on creating your personal development plan.

2. You don’t have a clear goal

Many people embrace complacency because they just don’t know where they want to go. If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.

Pro Tip: Spend a few minutes thinking of where you would like to be 12 months from now in your work life and in your personal life. Once you know that, determine 3-6 things that you need to do to begin moving in that direction.

3. You are not clear on your priorities

If everything seems important then nothing is important. You must be clear on your most important tasks. Most of us are trying to do too many things. We become experts at majoring on minor things.

Pro Tip: Your priorities, your BIG Rocks, should consist of the things you need to do to move closer to the goal you set in Item #2 above.

4. You fill available time with entertainment

There is nothing wrong with entertainment. What’s wrong is when you fill any open time you have with your Netflix subscription. The people I coach often tell me they don’t have time for some of the personal development suggestions I give them (Read a book, listen to a podcast, etc.). Then, when we look deeper at where their time is spent or invested we find a healthy dose of entertainment keeping them from making progress in their lives.

Pro Tip: Use your daily commute or other travel time to listen to audio books ( Be intentional about when you SPEND time on entertainment, and be intentional about when you INVEST time in you.

5. You use words like, “I don’t have the time”, instead of “I didn’t take the time”.

The one phrase I do not allow people to say is, “I don’t have time to…” The fact is that we all have the same amount of time. The more accurate phrasing is, “I didn’t take the time to…”

You vote on what’s important in your life (a priority) based on how you spend or invest your time. If it’s something you want to do you will find a way to do it. If not, you will find an excuse.

Pro Tip: Never use the words “I didn’t have time” again. Always say, “I didn’t take the time”. Take note of the things you did do with your time and see if it matches up to what you said was important in your life.

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All Of Us Are Smarter Than One Of Us

I once worked for a senior executive who said, “If our success is dependent on my brains alone, we are in trouble.” He made it clear that he expected each of us to participate by thinking about the business as if it were our own. I learned this about him the hard way, but it is a lesson I will never forget.

One day, during our regular staff meeting, after he had just made a presentation to the team about what we would be doing over the next six months, he looked at me and asked me what I thought.

Being quick-witted and always looking for a laugh, I said, “I think what you think boss; what do you think?”

There were a few chuckles around the room as my boss sat back in his chair.

“Can I give you a tip?” he asked me.

“Sure.”, I said, sitting up a little bit straighter in my chair.

He leaned in a bit and loud enough for everyone to hear said, “If you and I think the same thing then one of us won’t be necessary, and it won’t be me!”

I thought that was a pretty good tip and it taught me a lesson that I have passed on to every person on every team that I ever led – you should always be prepared with a point of view. If you do not have a point of view on what is being discussed then decline the meeting.

My boss was right, all of us are smarter than one of us and he insisted that each of us think like business owners, not like hired hands. He knew that if he could leverage the 10 smart people in the room his chances of leading us to success went up by a factor of 10.

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