t my first NSA meeting, I was
giddy. It was only 9 a.m., with
two more jam-packed hours still
ahead, yet I felt I had already
received my money’s worth. The industry
veterans around me said the next speaker
was fantastic. They were right—the pre-
senter was energetic and informative.
But when his standing ovation finally
subsided, I was not uplifted. I was deflated.
Discouraged. My disappointment was not
about the speaker, but about me. The pre-
senter’s style and stories were so different
from mine that I thought, “If that’s how I
have to be in order to succeed as a profes-
sional speaker, then I’ll never make it in
the speaking business.”
Right out of the gate, I was making
a classic rookie mistake. I erroneously
believed that to succeed, I should be just
like everyone else. Only two hours into
my NSA experience, I had not yet realized
an important and fruitful truth: Your story
is your strength.
TAKE US TO YOUR WORLD
We live most of our lives focused on our
own personal world. Our jobs, families
and personal situations take up most of
our attention and energy. Trends in the
news and outside information like the
price of gasoline are evaluated through
filters to determine how these things
impact our individual lives.
Books, movies and stories pose attractive opportunities for someone to forget
the worries of their world for a while.
Great storytelling can temporarily take a
person to another world and give them
much-needed respite and entertainment.
If the story provides some enlightenment
and education to the listener, then the time
spent becomes even more valuable (i.e.,
a higher return on investment, or ROI).
High-ROI storytelling makes the audience smarter, stronger or more hopeful in
dealing with the challenges and concerns
waiting for them back in their worlds.
As speakers, we should transport our
listeners to a new world that provides a
welcome distraction—and some lasting
lessons. So, take your audience to your
world. If you are in sales, have them feel
fear and anticipation as you open the
prospect’s office door. If you were a pilot,
make them sweat a bit when you take off
during a driving rainstorm.
YOUR STORY IS
For 15 years, I had been an environmental geologist and technical trainer, teaching
hundreds of scientific workshops. Though
I liked the environmental consulting business, I had a more important mission.
I was the sole survivor of an epic
mountain climbing accident. In 1992,
I was descending from the summit of
Mount Rainier in Washington with my
good friend and climbing partner, Mike
Price. On our descent of the glacier,
a sun-weakened snowbridge suddenly
collapsed and dropped us both into a
giant hidden crevasse.
Jim Davidson was asked
to narrate the audiobook
version of The Ledge.
After spending 50
hours in a four-foot-by-six-foot, sound-proof
booth talking to an
audience of none (just
the digital recording
system), he develope these speaker tips
for extended recording sessions:
1 Make sure you have several days
before your next gig to allow your
voice to recover.
2 Save and soothe your voice (try tea, etc.).
3 Your voice will change, and your range
will decline after five to six hours of
recording. It will recover somewhat
overnight, but do not push too hard.
4 Avoid socializing and phone chats
after each day’s recording session.
5 For each character with dialogue,
you will need to differentiate voices
and speaking styles so listeners know
who is talking.
6 Think of three descriptive words to
help you project each character’s
I survived the 80-foot drop into the
dark, icy cavern. Mike did not.
Stuck on a small ice ledge and squeezed
between two massive ice walls, I was grieving, injured and terrified. I struggled to
accept that I was going to have to solo
climb an overhanging ice wall, or die
alone inside the glacier. Tapping into deep
reserves of resilience, I fought against a
series of harrowing challenges to survive
that day. Eventually, I made it out of the
crevasse and back home to my wife. Later,
I fought just as hard to survive the survival.
It took years for me to heal, to understand what had happened to me, and to
get comfortable enough that I could consider sharing my story. In 2003, I attended