I was looking for inspiration. I have been running public speaking programmes for many years and wondered if I was missing a trick. Perhaps I could still learn from others in the business. So I turned to a book written by a highly-acclaimed ‘expert’, only to be disappointed.
My expectations were high, and I was ready to be impressed. But 100 pages into the book I still have not found a single insight worth adding to what I already know. Worse, the author (who is English) has done what I find more common among Americans – he talks ‘about’ the topic rather than the topic itself.
He talks about certain typical situations in which the communication fails, but he doesn’t explain the dynamics, and takes forever to provide the solution. Moreover, when the answer arrives, it’s pretty ordinary.
That’s the word! Ordinary. This famous expert’s flagship work is just plain ordinary.
I turned to another book, this one written by an American. The title was attractive, saying exactly what I was looking for. The author has won awards for speechwriting.
Then I came across this: “Try some Self-Depreciating Humour”.
It should, of course, have been “self-deprecating”, and it was not a typo. The fault lay with the author. It’s quite a common error among Americans.
I closed the book. And as I did so, I recalled the time I spoke at the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, and told of the rivalry between two orators in ancient Greece: Demosthenes and Aeschines.
An American speaker approached me later and said he sometimes told that same story himself, but related it to Demosthenes and Cicero. I gently pointed out that they were born nearly 300 years apart, so they could hardly have been rivals. If I were ever in his audience, I would have a problem with his credibility.
If you are going to stick your head above the parapet, as author or speaker, you’ve got to get it right, you’ve got to check your facts, you’ve got to deliver what it says on your tin. How quickly we can lose a following, just by failing to meet expectations