[On] Point to Ponder: One Speaker’s “Mastery Moment”

As a public speaking coach, sometimes I get to see my clients in action, but not often. They’re in various cities pitching investors. Or competing at city- or state-wide Challenge Weekends. Giving keynotes or sales presentations. Occasionally I get to see a recording, and at the very least, I hear their feedback. But today was rare.

Today I was in the audience, and wow, did Sarah shine. She had a true “Mastery Moment.” After presenting, she definitely left the building with “that feeling” – the feeling I want everyone to have from the stage – that “I nailed it!” feeling.

A few weeks ago, I met with Sarah and her team to hear the pitch as it was then. It was strong overall, but of course it had areas for improvement, a few of which really needed to be addressed. I spent some time giving specific feedback. On storytelling. Slide development. On images. Charts. We went from macro to micro. Then I walked out the door. Clients accept varying degrees of feedback, you never quite know how the final version will shape up.

This go around, something awesome happened: Between that meeting and today, the team took that feedback and ran with it. They ran with all of it. And it paid off in spades. What, you might ask, did the speaker do that made it such a cut above?

Top 5 reasons She Nailed It:

  • Sarah didn’t just have a story, she had a relevant and repeated story. She opened with it, she peppered the pitch with a nod to it half way through, and then she closed with it, creating the “bookend effect.” Very effective.
  • She demonstrated excellent audience analysis. She asked great rhetorical questions (“so you might be asking yourselves…”). Inviting the audience to participate, she polled us right off the bat with a situation to which we could all relate. So many “how many of you…?” questions flop, but this one worked. She was off and running.
  • In strategic places, the speaker used internal summaries and transitions. Unfortunately, it is rare to see this done well. This can be hard to pull off. But it is always welcome by we audience members. She tied sections together which kept us involved and kept her story flowing.
  • She used humor! Twice! (And we laughed authentically, not just to please her! About scientific stuff!)
  • But perhaps more than anything, this speaker rehearsed. This was so evident. She practiced by herself. Then she rehearsed with her team. She probably visualized the talk when she couldn’t rehearse it, and then she rehearsed live again. And then again. She was fluid with every slide, referring to them but not reading from them, engaging us every step of the way. She firmly establishing credibility by having complete command of her material. Not only that, but she smiled, she was likable, loud enough, respected the time limit and was conversational. As if that wasn’t enough, she continued to shine during Q & A.

I could keep going. But the fact is, she hit a home run. The rest of the audience noticed, too. The first person’s comment began with these words, “Hey, this was one of the clearest, most well-executed pitches I’ve heard in a long time.” Several similar comments followed from others.

As I left the venue, I shared my congratulations and feedback with the speaker. Smiling wide, she thanked me. But I thanked her. “It was a wonderful experience to see you listen to feedback, internalize it, rework your deck, and then absolutely nail it. And you did, Sarah, – you just nailed it.”

We both left smiling, but I still don’t know which one of us had that “on top of the world” feeling more. As I’ve written in a previous post, masterful moments like today? That’s why I do what I do.

Cindy provides public speaking coaching and brand consulting to entrepreneurs and small businesses who seek to master their message on stage, online and in publications. Her passion for crafting, analyzing and presenting messages developed through over 25 years in the corporate, academic and entrepreneurial worlds. Cindy coaches clients on pitch decks, TED talks, storytelling, presentation presence, brand messaging, PR strategy and more. Contact Cindy at info@onpoint-communications.com.


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“As a professional speaker, I know the value of getting feedback before giving an important speech. As I prepared my TEDx talk, Cindy was the perfect person to give me outside perspective. She did a beautiful job taking the many ideas I had floating around in my head and helping me select what to use, how to organize them, and how to tie it all together.

I love the way she coached, not trying to make her words my own, but instead, considering what I was trying to achieve and helping me stay true to my voice. If you have to stand and deliver a great talk, working with Cindy can help you ensure you’re at your best!”

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