I was at a Toastmasters meeting last night when a member, attempting to encourage newer speakers, said “No speech is a failure – Each speech has an outcome. It’s how you deal with that outcome that counts.”
And I’d agree – at least as far as the sentiment goes. But to paraphrase the old saying, sentiment (and a dollar) will get you a cup of coffee.
The problem with the ‘no fail’ thinking is that it is true within a controlled, safe training environment – but if you go into the real world thinking you can’t really fail .. the repercussions can be dire.
This is NOT meaning to ‘diss’ training organisations like Toastmasters – in fact, it’s the opposite: I’d seriously suggest joining such a group to find a safe, controlled place to practice presentation skills.
When I joined Toastmasters the first time, I was a young radio DJ / newsreader.
I could regularly talk to 50 thousand people at a time, without a worry.
But stick 50 of them in the same room as me, and my tongue would seemingly swell to the size of a killer-whale’s fluke, flopping around in my mouth and making me an inarticulate, gibbering mess.
A colleague took pity on me, and gently prodded me in the direction of a local Toastmasters club, where I discovered that with some structured training, I could overcome the butterflies in my stomach – or at least train them to fly in formation, carrying me along with them 🙂
But I have also had failures.
I once gave what I thought would be a rollicking, entertaining keynote address that would have the audience both laughing and taking on board the serious underlying message.
Well, that was what I thought. The audience, on the other hand, thought it was a horrid under-prepared pottage of cliches.
I also never got another gig with that particular company.
And that’s what I mean when I say that failure IS a possibility. It wasn’t fatal to my career – but it could have been.
Of course, in line with the advice that I referred to from last night, I also learned from that mistake.
I never thereafter mixed my messages in that way – especially when talking to insurance company sales staff after lunch on day two of a compulsory workshop.
And I have since gone back to Toastmasters, to refresh and refine my skills.
So if you have aspirations to be a leader in your industry; if you want to be seen as a ‘go-to’ guy or girl; if you think that making presentations may be a roadblock in your career; then consider getting some training: whether it’s one on one with a consultant, or in a structured group environment like Toastmasters or Rostrum.
Because it’s better to stumble in a learning environment than it is in the exam-room called life.