Monday, July 13, 2009

Marketing Primer: Step Four, Public Speaking…getting bigger

I got to where I was actually enjoying talking to small groups. I’d made some mistakes and learned things that did not work. For example, everyone tells you to start with a joke. I do not tell jokes well. That always failed for me and often irritated the audience. I did find examples that clarified and amused the audience. I found side comments that made them smile. I also developed a feeling for how to let a spontaneous comment slip out. I found that the funny things that just popped out of my mouth were much more amusing than prepared comments. This was all part of learning to be an outgoing, affable, likable person and learning what worked for me. I was honing a skill and that was very enjoyable.

But then there came a day when I was asked to fly to Japan and speak to an audience of 300 Japanese executives. Also in the audience would be everyone I knew in the world of 1394. That cold panic came back. I was afraid to speak to this crowd.

Sony was hosting the first non-US meeting of the 1394 Trade Association at their corporate headquarters in the Shinagawa section of Tokyo. They invited about 20 companies to deliver short presentations to a crowd of 300 executives from all their competitors. Sony wanted the industry to adopt 1394. It is impossible to be a leader if no one is following and Sony was way out front with 1394. I was picked by my boss to give the presentation for our company.

I’d only recently gotten comfortable with speaking to small crowds and I was fighting the urge to panic at the prospect of speaking in Tokyo. I was amazed that this opportunity came to me but with that feeling of being honored also came the huge burden to not screw it up.

The flight over was excellent. Business was good in those days and I was flying “Business Class”. My first trip to Japan. My first international trip on company money. And the first time I’d ever flown in comfort. I’d flown internationally before but in coach, even as a college kid, the seats that started out feeling OK ended up feeling like a park bench by the end of the flight. Business class was great…but I still had that little problem of delivering that speech. Relief from my fear came from an unexpected source.

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