JelloI decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and go for a power walk. There I was, walking down the trail like a crazy person, charging toward a group of people who were blocking my path to the 60 stairs I like to run up (OK, walk/jog up). I pulled out one ear bud to hear what they were saying, and I realized that the three overweight adults, standing around with shoulders slumped and hands in pockets, were trying to convince the teenaged boy to run up the stairs with the overweight terrier so that the dog could get some exercise.

As I went bounding up the stairs behind the boy and his dog, I remembered the advice I received from one of my clients who is a home health aide. Her advice, which she would freely give anyone in earshot, was to never stop moving. Most of her clients who were home-bound too early were people who stopped doing much of anything once they hit retirement. And they paid for it in their seventies.

Over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to observe a speaker give the same 30-minute speech each February, and the thing I admire most about him is he never stops growing. He never rests on his laurels – and he takes feedback to heart.  He has improved in all important categories:  audience centricity, visual display of data, pleasing graphics, vocal variety, brevity, and powerful messaging.  He has gone from a B- to an A.

Most aspiring speakers think they need to take the 60 stairs five or ten at a time in order to wow their audience. They put too much pressure on themselves to be the most compelling and entertaining speaker right out of the gate. The better strategy is to focus on smaller and more specific improvements. Choosing one or two aspects to improve upon each time will lead to long-term success. And when you do get to the top of your game, don’t rest there for too long or you’ll get soft.

When the teenaged boy and his dog reached the top of the stairs, the boy leaned over the railing and yelled, “Now what?!”  My thought exactly.

– Barbara

Barbara Roche