There's a lot to learn when you find yourself on the losing side--if you're willing to do the work

I was going to post a different blog today, but I feel inspired to share this story instead. I hope you become inspired as well.

I gave a presentation on How to Elevate Your 30-Second Commercial, and it was a blast. But, when I was first asked to speak on this topic, I was flattered, but also a little confused. After all, when it comes to public speaking, I am a big loser.

Or I should say, I lose big, often. That’s how I feel about my public speaking. When I was a child I competed in public speaking competitions through 4-H, and I lost. It was very painful not to even get 3rd place, ever, in the county-wide competition. I practiced over and over in front of a mirror, barely needed my notecards, worked on eye contact and posture, and everything I could think of. I quit competing when I came to a point at which I could think of nothing else I could do in order to perform any better. My poor little heart was broken.

I realized later on that the difference between me and the winners wasn’t that they practiced harder, and truthfully we all had raw talent. But they benefited from speech writers and coaches. If my life was a Lifetime movie, I would have still won, but in the real world, I just got smarter and worked harder.

In college I minored in communication and took Advanced Speech Writing and Analysis and Advanced Public Speaking, which I aced. My Theories and Methods of Persuasion professor taught us that you can learn more from studying losers than winners, and as I studied those early contest losses, I saw that in the later competitions, I wanted to win so badly that it probably affected my performance. I didn’t act like a winner.

Armed with great writing skills and more confidence, I delicately put myself back “out there.” As a graduate student, I suffered from none of the performance anxiety that plagued my peers as we joined the professional stage and presented papers at conferences. People listened to me because I gave engaging presentations.

By the time I was President of the American Association of Malaysia and delivered the welcome address at our annual ball, the American Ambassador, then Joseph Yun, asked me if I hired a speech writer. I was speechless. For my entire life, I sook to be as good as the speech writer the other kids hired all those years ago. And, I had done it to the point that someone who has his speeches written for him detected an expert behind my words. It was me!

The merciful thing is that as an adult in the world, our elevator pitches are not evaluated by judges. More than that, every single person in the room can be a winner! When we all speak from our hearts with messages that are clear, engaging, and direct, we can all grow our businesses. There need be no losers, even as winners are made.

There is no reason to freak out about giving a perfect pitch. Even with the imperfections—and maybe because of them--you will attract the people who need you.

And, as truly painful as it was to feel like I was always the loser in those 4-H competitions, the experience of losing motivates me to push harder and do better, even to this day. It also teaches me how it feels to be the person who needs to learn the information I have to share.

Hey, shy and awkward speaker. I have been there. I am still right there. I just don’t care anymore because I have important things to say that people need to hear, so I had to quit worrying about myself and just worry about communicating effectively.

What are your problems with your elevator pitch? What do you say that people respond the best to, from your pitches? Have any questions about how to elevate your pitch? Let me know.