Delivering a Great Speech Takes Courage

I had an English professor in college who said, “If you write a really great novel, you’re screwed.”  What he meant was that great novels are often self-revealing, leaving the writer personally and emotionally vulnerable.

I’ve often thought about that quote when advising clients about how to create a great speech. That’s because giving a great speech often takes a willingness to open up and be vulnerable. 

A CEO for a small public company called me recently asking how I could help him with a speech he must give to a trade show. I asked him to tell me about what he has done with his company.

He revealed that when he took over, the company was in terrible shape.  His executive team members weren’t speaking to each other. Customer service was in horrible shape. He knew he had to lay off some employees if he was going to save the company. 

In the 10 years since he has taken over, the company has turned around and is performing well.

It was an amazing story. But as he spoke, I became both excited and nervous. 


Because when I hear a story like that, I know that the speech could be fantasic if he’s willing to tell the real story. The reality of business is that we often can’t tell the real story. It might make the company look bad. And I understand that.

Unfortunately, there are also many business people who just aren’t willing to tell their own stories. They’re afraid of being personal, showing their true selves, looking vulnerable.

That, as the Cowardly Lion knows, takes courage.

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