3 Lessons from Eugene
I was under pressure.
It was partly because it was my first time driving in Eugene, Oregon.
Each time I drive in a new city, I am full of nerves. Yes, a lot.
Part of the anxiety was coming from my speaking competition under 2 hours.
I had to face off with 8 of the best speakers from Oregon, Washington and California. The more I thought about it, the more I perspired.
As if that was not enough, I was running slightly late. Why? I took one wrong turn, a little too soon and ended up somewhere else. Am to blame for ignoring the voice of Siri!
The pressure was building up…
I also felt so much tension thinking — What if I miss the pre-contest briefing?
My mind is running a complex calculus while navigating the new twists and turns.
Call it gymnastics or calisthenics, call it what ever name, it was downright scary.
My palms were sweaty, my head was spinning faster than my wheels of the car I was driving. If someone had taken my pulse, the reading would have been explosive!
Competing with native English speakers is nerve-wrecking to me.
Why am I putting myself through such risk?
Have you ever felt like that?
As my personal insecurities flooded my mind, other questions came along.
–will the MC sabotage i.e. mispronounce my name as others do?
–will the judges understand my unusual foreign accent?
All of that happened last Saturday at District 7 (Oregon, Washington and California) Speech Finals in Eugene, Oregon. The journey to the district finals was fraught with jitters, pressure and uncertainty.
Like everyone else, I had to clear through 4 levels, emerging top each time.
So how did it go? Did I take home the best any trophy?
Lesson #1 Self-Deprecation Breeds Appreciation
The top three winners used self-deprecation over self amplification. Extensively, they did. Though highly accomplished speakers and professionals, they did not boast about their accomplishments.
Instead, they talked about their foibles, flaws, insecurities. It caught fire with the audience. When you self-deprecate, your messages appreciates.
Lesson #2 Engage Before You Persuade
The 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking, Craig Valentine gave a keynote on storytelling. He rocked! From him, I learned that it is critical to use stories to sell the outcomes, not the features. By using this method, he kept the audience engaged and entertained from start to finish.
My big take-away from him is that, He who persuades, must first engage.
Lesson #3 Be Brutally Authentic
The champion in the evaluation speech had a booming voice. On the other hand, the winner in the international speech, had a squeaky and spiky voice. Each came across as sincere and they were brutally honest about who they are, their struggles and their issues.
It taught a me a huge lesson; every voice counts. When you are brutally honest, the audience feels your authenticity.
Yes, I did take a small trophy home, It was not the tallest, it was not the smallest. It was just tall enough to remind me that I have to keep learning harder to get better. What about you? What are you learning?