After finishing his speech, the young man, a high school senior in his school’s senior speech contest, rolled his eyes, shook his head and pursed his lips in that self-loathing attitude that communicates to others “I’m a little disgusted with how my speech went.” He clearly knew that he hadn’t given his best performance. And, so did the audience. Funny thing is that’s what I remember most about his speech—it was the very last thing he communicated.
One of the most important lessons I learned about giving a speech—don’t communicate negative feelings about your performance at the end—I didn’t learn while giving a speech. I learned it in karate.
Part of karate training at the karate school I attended (and eventually earned my second degree black belt through in my mid-40’s), included performing forms (specified sequences of movements) “tournament style” as if we would be competing. Let’s just say I wasn’t very good and I knew it. Early on, sometimes part-way through the form and often at the end, I would roll my eyes and sigh in disgust at my performance. My karate instructor grit his teeth when I did that and one day told me, “Don’t tell on yourself! If you mess up, just keep going, without reacting to it. People might not even notice if you make mistakes. Plus you will look more confident.”
Later, as I began to help others with their own forms, I realized that another problem with “telling on yourself” was that it could become a habit. Any behavior, good or bad, repeated often enough will become a habit.
“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”—Vince Lombardi
So, when you are speaking, focus not on yourself, but on your audience and don’t “tell on yourself.”
Create the habit of a winning attitude.