Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup 2010: Putting Mistakes Behind You

Here is a speaking challenge I hear over and over again from my clients:

Once I mess up, I just can't get back on track.

Sound familiar? Truly, one of the most powerful speaking skills is the ability to put your mistakes behind you.

With this in mind, check out this June 2010 excerpt from

World Cup 2010, Mental Preparation and Putting Mistakes Behind You

Since England’s disappointing result in their 2010 FIFA World Cup opening match against the USA, fingers of blame have been pointing at England goalkeeper Robert Green...Green fumbled the ball pretty spectacularly, allowing a – let’s face it – fairly average shot at goal by Clint Dempsey of the USA to hit the back of the net.

So how do you put a mistake you’ve made in front of the whole world behind you; how do you move on when the world’s press are having a field day at your expense, and you’re now the butt of every global text and email joke in circulation? In this case, mental preparation will be key.

Whats done is done.

In a post-match interview, Green said, “It’s done. It happened. It’s not something you can allow to affect yourself. It’s very disappointing, but it’s happened.”


Easier said than done, right?

Especially when you're in the middle of your presentation, how do you put mistakes behind you and move forward?

The answer? Return to your core message. Remember why you are there in the first place and what you are trying to communicate:

1. What is the one thing you want your audience to know?

2. How do you want them to feel when they listen to you?

3. What do you want them to do after your presentation?

Returning to your core message enables you to get out of the past (your mistake/s) and get into the present moment. And being able to be fully present with your audience is critical the success of your speech.

From the Green Room: Don't be perfect. Be present. When you mess up, get out of the past and into the present moment by returning to your core message.

For more on this topic, look at my post from last September,
Be a Starfish Speaker.

Will Ferrell's Harvard Commencement Speech

OK - So this is from 2003 and I am honestly not sure what you can learn from it, but I had to include it because it is just so funny.

(I especially appreciate the contrast of Will dancing while the Harvard faculty claps stiffly in the background.)


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Commencement 2010: Another Great Opener

I love the way Meryl Streep opens her speech at this year's Barnard College graduation:

(You have to first listen to a rather long intoduction, which is not bad either.)

Streep does a brilliant job of lowering her status - and thus connecting to her audience.

She gracefully moves from the elite situation of being asked to give a commencement speech to the universal "back in college" nightmares that plague here as the date of the speech draws near.

From the Green Room: Be aware of your status. As you prepare your content, ask yourself whether you need to lower ro raise it. Then do so in your opener. By evening the playing field, you will immediately forge a stronger connection with your audience.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Get them Standing: Commencement Speeches 2010

As I looked through this year's commencement speeches, I came across this delightful opener. Hamid Mir addresses the graduates of the Kennedy School at Harvard and begins by asking everyone to get up and stretch. It's a simple, but brilliant idea that instantly raises the level of energy in the room.

At the end of his speech, Mir gets the audience on their feet again - this time for a standing ovation. While clearly the audience appreciates the speech itself, I believe that his opening stretch made it more likely for the audience to stand up at the end.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Never Say Never

There are few absolutes in speaking.

With the right speaker in the right situation - almost anything approach can work.

Watch the beginning of this remarkable speech by John Wooden, (1910-2010), the beloved basketball coach who was the only person to be inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame - both as a player and as a coach:

From the Green Room: It is almost always a bad idea to begin a speech with an apology - especially one in which you don't assume responsibility! But clearly, in this case, his apology is a brilliant and endearing way to open his remarks.

The same holds true with any of the basic rules of speaking. In the right time and place - and with the right speaker - any rule can be broken, once in a while. Never say never.