After a recent keynote presentation I gave with my partner in crime, Joe Gerstandt, a lady approached me. She handed me a business card with note written on the back. Our presentation that day had been about authenticity and the journey to becoming more authentic in our lives.
As we talked, she shared that she had sat in her chair after we had finished, crying because she had just realized that she needed to quit her job–now. She loved the work she did, but didn’t feel like she was able to do it in a way that was true to who she really is. She was nervous about the decision, but resolute. She said that our session had been hugely important to her.
We have since exchanged some emails and she’s well on her way. Turns out, it wasn’t a momentary emotional reaction. She went back and resigned her job without having a new one. And, she’s on the path to finding something better.
This story is awesome for me. I share it because I’m proud of it. But stories like these are rare.
When I accepted my first invitation to speak at a conference about 12 years ago, I did it for a bunch of reasons. I did it for professional development. I did it because I liked speaking in front of groups. But, most importantly, I did it because I felt like it was a way to make a difference.
It would be several years before I would decide to try to make speaking part of how I made my living. I love it and am grateful that I get the opportunity to do as often as I do.
But, over the years, my idealism about the impact I can make as a speaker has dissolved into a more realistic perspective. Reading review comments from people who clearly missed the point of an entire hour-long speech is a reality check. Talking to people after a speech who confess that they didn’t remember that they had seen you speak before until near the end of your speech is pretty humbling as well.
I’ve come to the realization that most people in any audience really just want to be entertained. Some want to be made to think. And a few are searching for some truth or insight that will help them make progress.
As a result, at the end of the speech, most people leave and move on with whatever is next on their agenda like it never happened. A few in the audience leave with good intentions about doing something with what they just heard, but who will soon get distracted before doing anything about them. And, depending upon the size of the audience, there are one or two (maybe three), who make a commitment to change based on what they just experienced.
Those few people are why I speak. This is why I spend the time and energy it takes to carefully craft messages. The fact that I can impact the life or work of even one person in the audience is enough for me.
It helps that I love speaking and I’ve embraced my role as entertainer as well. In order to make an impact for the one or two, I have to entertain the rest of the room along the way.
This is why i do this work.
Why do you do your work?