Since most of my love for public speaking comes from the love I had of debate, I can always think back on the things that I knew and learned from that time in my life. I’ve talked before about how it helped me grow and come out of my shell, but it taught me things that I didn’t realize until recently.
I went to a tournament where one of the debaters was a really cocky guy, and in truth their entire school was. They were the “ones to beat” and everyone knew it. So while our team and another team were sitting out by the hotel pool, hanging out, and having a good time, no one wants to speak to their team. Their team knew everything about debate, and didn’t offer any kind of help to novice debaters, or schools. It seemed like they took it too seriously, and didn’t use it as a learning experience. They were great, and everyone knew it, and we always want to learn from what is considered to be the best.
This one guy was the worst. You could hear him a mile away talking about how great he was. After his rounds, he would come into the community prep room and very loudly declare that he is the greatest thing ever. Naturally, he was really ticking me off. In one of my second rounds, I drew against him, and I dreaded it.
He beat me. He beat me so bad that I swear I think I still have a bruise. In fact, I think he might have won that tournament. It was the judging sheet that we got back weeks later that surprised me. He scored low on courtesy points. Courtesy points are usually the easiest things to get, because all you have to do is be nice to your opponent. Part of my beating was that he just verbally assaulted me (it was bad – I cried after) and the judge noticed that he was not as polite as he could have been.
Yes, he might have won, which a lot of people would argue that’s the point of being involved in a competitive event. I disagree – debate was a place for many of us to get introduced to networking and speaking under pressure. Most debate team members are involved in the Communications department somehow. That judging sheet taught me one thing very quickly – there is always someone observing you before you speak.
What you do and say before an event is going to be just as important as what you say during the event. Someone is going to be observing you and there’s a pretty good chance they are going to jump on the opportunity to pick you apart. We all know “that guy” is out there.
You don’t need to sell yourself. Why not just cut loose and have some fun? My debate colleague was good – everyone knew it – but we disliked him because he walked around talking about how great he was. I actually heard him say some pretty clever and witty things, so I’m sure he was a great person to be around, but no one (aside from the people on his team) wanted to be near him.
When it comes to being invited to speak somewhere, we have an obligation to share our knowledge with other people and not just talk about why we are so awesome. How are you inviting people to learn from you not only during the conference, but also before?