Having been married to a die-hard Red Sox fan for over 15 years, I know how important the month of September is for Major League Baseball.  It’s March Madness in the fall.  And no fans were more confident on September 1st than Red Sox Nation. Nine games up and a visible route to the pennant races.  Twenty-nine days and 20 losses later, we are all reeling from last night’s disaster.  There are dozens of reasons why the Sox are out of the running (rain delay anyone?!), but as Globe columnist Chad Finn explained, the real reason is, “the Red Sox did it to themselves.”

Finn tries to make sense of the debacle and came up with the following summation:

Last night was the denouement of…all of the innings wasted by a lack of urgency, inspiration, and a shortage of timely pitching and hitting.

I read this on the heels of giving a presentation to a group of about 20 professionals and it struck me that these are also three reasons why a speaker might strike out.

  1. Lack of urgency:  Whether you give the same talk each time (such as new employee orientation) or deliver a variety of presentations, you would do well to avoid minimizing your role or the importance of your message. Most of us will never be called upon to deliver a speech like Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” on race in America, but your audience has given you their time and attention and they deserve no less than your best.
  2. Lack of inspiration:  Even if your boss has asked you to present on the Role of Optics in Reducing Error Rates in the ER, it is your job to fill your listeners with both information and inspiration.  You have to be up there anyway – why not make it memorable?  A good definition of the word inspiration is “stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.”  That takes some soak time and prep work to get right.
  3. Shortage of pitching and hitting:  The bread and butter of public speaking are appealing to your particular audience and structuring an attention-getting presentation.  If you fail to factor in time to research your audience and what they might want to get out of your presentation or you slap a few key ideas together and call it day, you could end up swinging at a wild pitch.  Helpful tip:  These two activities alone can actually make the delivery of your presentation less stressful.

So let’s learn an object lesson from the 2011 Red Sox.  Let’s not do it to ourselves.

– Barbara