The worst presentation I have ever given

It's bad

Let me tell you about the worst presentation I have ever given in my life.

Yes, even as a public speaking coach, some of my early work has been … of questionable quality….

I was obsessed with Tony Robbins growing up.

I loved how he spoke, how he captured the attention of an audience.

I couldn’t imagine doing anything more than being like him.

Oh, if I could only make a living being a paid public speaker.

Now, at the time, I was hosting public speaking and communication workshops around town for free to get some experience.

Then, one day, it finally happened!

I got a message on Facebook (When facebook was still cool…)

“Hey, I got recommended to reach out to you for a keynote presentation. My team is looking for a speaker at the end of the month to teach communication skills, are you available?”

Am I available?

You’re DANG RIGHT I’M available!

I made it.

This is what I’ve been working so hard for!

Now … how the heck do you put a keynote together? I’ve never done one before.

... you know who does keynotes really well?


For a month straight, I BINGED every single Tony Robbins keynote I could find.

Made rigorous notes, came up with several stories of my own to tell.

Crammed a whole ton of information, reviewed it over and over again.

I was ready.

They paid for my transport to the office,

They got me a coffee, mic’ed me up and took me to the boardroom,

30 executives walk in from what seemed like their lunch break, still chatting about.

“Here we go …”

It started with smiles.
Then the smiles went flat.
Then they began looking at each other in confusion.

… oh no.

Some looking at their watch,
Others scrolling their phone,
Their faces extremely skeptical.

Eventually, my keynote fizzled out,
I got some sympathy claps.

I was thanked for being there, and sent home.

The feeling in my stomach, to this day, is unbearable when I think about it.

You’re probably thinking, wait, why was it so bad?

Here are 3 MAJOR mistakes I made:

1) I tried SO HARD to be Tony Robbins that it came across completely fake. What I didn’t realize is, I did not have the credibility or experience that Tony Robbins did.

They could see right through it. I did not give them any reason to believe a word I was saying. Why should they listen to some guy telling them how to get better at their job?

2) I was TELLING them what to do. I was speaking from a place of “I know this, you don’t.” This completely destroyed any potential of building trust and likability with the audience.

3) I did PREPARE for my speech. I had looaaads of information and stories. But I made one critical mistake - I did not REHEARSE. When those stories came out, they were jumbled up. I was stuttering, I was all over the place. Ever heard someone tell you a story when they’re trying to recall specific details that they forgot? That’s what I sounded like.

Not to mention, I made the person who brought me in to speak look TERRIBLE in front of their team.

A mentor of mine told me, a sign you did well is when they ask you to come back …

… Surprise surprise, I did not get that call.

After weeks of beating myself up for it, this is what I did.

1) I made sure I started every speech, every keynote with a focus on CONNECTING with the people I’m speaking to. They need to feel like they see themselves in me before they will trust anything I say.

2) Instead of trying to be Tony Robbins, I had to get comfortable developing my own style.

Yes, learn from people you admire but don’t replicate everything they do. It’s a disservice to your own personality and experience.

3) Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. PREPARING for a presentation i.e putting slides together, writing out the main points, is VERY DIFFERENT from saying the words out loud.

I made it a rule to say my entire keynote out loud at least 15 times before I did a talk.

Do you want to know what happened when I implemented these 3 changes over 8 years?

I became a paid public speaker.

If it weren’t for the terrible keynote I did,

I would never have learned these lessons that got me to where I am today.

Sometimes bad things happen in life,
But they may seem bad in the short-term,
There’s a good chance, with the right perspective, that experience can lead to long-term growth.

Measure your mistakes on a longer time horizon, and you’ll be surprised by what they teach you.



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