Finding the funny in a speaker’s life
Navigating the Seas of Speaking
How is a speaker or trainer like the captain of a sea vessel? Captains know that unexpected obstruc- tions can throw them
off their charted course to their desired
port. This also can describe a speaker’s
journey and unusual circumstances that
arise. On my sailing/speaking journeys,
I’ve steered the ship in three ways:
Check equipment prior to departure.
Decades ago, meeting planners at
Imperial Plaza in Richmond, Va.,
hired me for a speech. Getting organized early that morning, I realized I’d
forgotten to check on a podium and
microphone. A quick call to the event
coordinator confirmed my concern—
no podium and no microphone!
Almost immediately, the name
Howard Johnson danced in my mind.
Recently, I had spoken at HoJo and
thought I could use it to my advantage,
so I placed a call. “I recently spoke at
your hotel. What I really need today is
the loan of the microphone and lectern
I used during that session.” Thankfully,
she replied, “Of course, you are welcome
to use our equipment!” I picked them
up at Howard Johnson en route to
the Imperial Plaza. A disaster was narrowly averted, one that could have been
easily prevented by running my pre-boarding equipment checklist earlier.
Shift with changing
Life’s full of changes. Fog can obscure
visibility and slow the journey; dark
clouds on the horizon suggest future
problems ahead. Having the power
go out in a meeting room without
windows is like navigating through
heavy fog. When this happened
during my talk, the darkness made
the room pitch black. Although only
inches away, my hand was invisible.
Fortunately, I knew my content and
didn’t need to read my outline. I continued on course steadily and affirmatively.
At the break, everyone made their way to
the hall lighted by the lobby windows.
“That was amazing!” a young man
with cabin boy enthusiasm told me.
I asked, “What do you mean?”
I needed clarification.
“You continued through your
whole speech as if you didn’t
need your eyes!” he said.
“Well, I knew I could never refund
your time like I could your money.
You paid me to deliver,” I smiled.
As captain, I knew I had to powerfully give my message and deliver
value through the fog and darkness.
Beware of passenger and
While presenting a Hampton, Va.,
program, a front-row attendee fell
asleep. No one saw him do this except
me. Rather than take my hands off the
helm, I continued with the full focus
of a lookout. I knew that releasing the
wheel for even a moment could have
shifted my program and ship off course.
As the captain of your program, you
must plan your course, keep your line of
position, and don’t let distractions affect
you. Let your intuition guide you—
and expect smooth, successful sailing.
Jim Gordon, CTO (Chief Training Officer), is a Successful Life Sailing LLC and US Coast Guard-certified captain, who works with women in leadership to ensure their professional and personal
success. He is the author of Songbook From
My Soul, Notes of the Sea. Contact him at
jim@SuccessfulLifeSailing or visit www.