Know what you do well

The very first time I presented at the IAAPA Attractions Expo was in 2006. I flew to Atlanta for the opportunity, and will never forget how it went.

It stunk. At least in my mind.

I remember talking really fast and having no life in my presentation at all. I tried to be funny, but it jut wasn’t working. I realized (too late, I am afraid) what my problem was.

I was trapped on the podium behind a long table and a lectern. I was trapped by my nervousness as much as my short microphone cable. I was separated and cut off from the most important people in the room. The audience.

I didn’t realize how much I really fed off of their energy and emotion until that presentation. The next year I decided to get off the podium and work the crowd from a closer proximity. I was much more comfortable, and I could tell that the audience was having a better time, too.

The lesson?  My presentations generally go much better when I can interact with the crowd.  Since realizing this, I have never let myself get trapped on the podium again.

Recently, I had another, similar lesson.  It seems as though just about every independent speaker or trainer out there has some sort of video, either of them presenting or talking directly to the camera. Since I am working on building a business of my own, I figured I should have one, too.  So, I’ve spent a good amount of time talking to my computer, setting up a decent shot, thinking of what to say, and trudging through footage of a recent class I taught.

I was über unsuccessful. I wasn’t getting my point across and even I got tired of watching after a few seconds. I just couldn’t see how anyone was going to be compelled enough to keep watching and hear my message.  (The video I shared last week is in direct response to my lack of success in this other medium).

Then it hit me. This is not what I do. It’s like being stuck on that podium at IAAPA. I realized my strength was in the live performance, so I should concentrate on that. Luckily, I’ve also had good response to my writing, so that’s worth pursuing as well.

I found this to be extremely motivating, because my efforts to do the same thing that everyone else was doing was not going well. I’ve never been one to blindly follow the pack, and maybe this was my wake-up call that I was trying to do just that.

If you have ever felt the same way, here are some questions for you to consider.

  • What are you good at?
  • Do you currently get to use your greatest talents in your job/career?
  • What do you do that may seem effortless to you, but is a struggle for others?
  • Have other people said, “You know, you would be great at X”… but X is something you’ve never considered?
  • Are you trying (and not being successful) at something right now that isn’t really “you”?

As you move through your career, these are good questions to keep in mind.  Over the years, the answers can change, and that’s okay.  In fact, trying new things and working at additional skills is how we grow and get better at what we do.  I am certainly not saying we shouldn’t try new stuff.

I am suggesting that while we are trying new stuff (and maybe struggling with it), don’t forget about what it is that you do well.  For me, I’ll keep writing and performing live until I can master talking to my computer.

Thanks for reading.