Home Leadership One Simple Reason CEO’s Give Boring Speeches

One Simple Reason CEO’s Give Boring Speeches

by Leslie Ungar

30 million presentations are given every day. 90% are unbearable. Included in these numbers are countless CEO presentations. CEO’s speak to their Board, Bank, and other CEO’s. Sometimes they even speak to their employees in companywide meetings. How does an otherwise dynamic CEO become boring as a speaker?

Keith Dambrot, says it this way, “the worst thing you can do is make a gifted player over-think.”  As Men’s Basketball Coach at The University of Akron and the first person to discover LeBron James on the elementary school playgrounds of Akron Oh, he should know. Great players play all on instinct versus thinking he claims. Sure, they have to learn the system and the plays. Then the challenge is to play by instinct when there is no time left on the clock.

You may think you have little in common with an NBA or NFL player. As a speaker, you have a similar challenge. You select a title, you write your speech, and you edit and perfect and polish it. If you’re on top of your game you practice. You practice out loud, you practice in the same place you will deliver the speech and at the same time of day.

Then comes your greatest challenge. Coach Dambrot calls it instinct; I call it your Inner Brilliance. You want to prepare and practice. Then when the spotlight of life is on you, you want YOU to come out.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to over practice. Often you will hear presidential candidates after a debate. Almost always they will say that they wish they would have rehearsed less. What they end up doing is pounding every ounce of themselves out of the presentation or debate.

Every speech should pass a test. The test is that it is a speech that only the person who created it or the person it was created for could give.

Several years ago, a CEO came to me with a speech he had written. What did I think of it, he asked? It was a typical CEO speech. It was fine. The problem is that it was a speech that any CEO of any company anywhere could have given. It didn’t show his Inner Brilliance, it didn’t showcase his instincts.

Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy” was a remark made during the 1988 vice presidential debate. Then senator and vice presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen made this remark which has lived on much longer than the senator himself. He followed an instinct, let his Inner Brilliance show, and the reward was a line that now belongs in the lexicon of political jargon.

You can’t speak on instinct alone and be effective. Martin Luther King, referred to by most as one of the greatest speakers of the last century, holed up in a hotel room before speaking, spewing index cards of notes to compile a speech. Yet standing at the Lincoln Monument that August day fifty years ago, he put away those notes. He closed the book on the speech he had worked so hard to craft. In its place he launched into the I Have a Dream theme, a little speech that he had tried out at a little church a few weeks earlier. Standing in front of 100,000 people that sweltering August day, he went on instinct, and he let his Inner Brilliance out.

When all is said and done we have more in common with super athletes than we might think. Their challenge is when to play by instinct and when to follow the system.  Their challenge like all of our challenge is to do the hard work, to prepare. But then when the spotlight of life is on us, to play by instinct, to let our Inner Brilliance come out and play.

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