Saturday, September 12, 2009

How Do You Handle the Heat?

It was June. It was Las Vegas. And it was HOT!!

Several years ago, I took a trip to Sin City to spend 48 hours with a speaking coach. But not just any speaking coach. This was Patricia Fripp. She has coached and trained speakers around the world and Meetings and Conventions Magazine calls her, "One of the 10 most electrifying speakers in North America". You know what I call her? One of the most terrifying speaking coaches in North America!

I'd been in the audience several times when she gave presentations about the art of speaking. Obviously, she was an outstanding speaker, but what I really loved about her was her honesty, frankness and candor as she talked about the skills it takes to be a great speaker. She emphasized the fact that you not only have to have the knowledge and information for solid content, but you have to be able to deliver it in a way that can hold the attention of the listener, and make them remember you - and what you said - long after your speech is over.

Impressed, I decided to take the trip to Vegas to spend some personal time with her. I am a firm believer that no matter what your profession, you should want to get around people who are the best at it and this was my opportunity. She was offering one-on-one coaching for a very small group of people and I jumped at the chance.

The process was simple. I would send her the outline of one of my speeches in advance, show up, present about 10 minutes of it in front of her, get her feedback, rework my speech that night incorporating her suggestions, and then present it again to her the next day.

I think that one of the biggest hindrances to people stepping out of their comfort zone and putting themselves "out there" is the fear of criticism.

  • What if they don't like it?" (whoever they are)
  • What if I fail?
  • What will they think about me?
  • What will they say about me?
  • What if I make a fool of myself?
  • What if they laugh?
  • What if I'm wrong?

And you know what? People won't like it. Not only will some people not like it, they will not be shy about telling you they don't like it and why. But if you want to be great - you've got to be ready for it. The good news is, criticism, when considered without emotions attached to it, can lead you to grow, develop, and become better at what you are trying to do.

Just think of any well known person. For the hundreds, thousands, or millions of people who admire, look up to, think highly of, respect, or hold them in high regard, there are probably just as many people who don't like them, don't respect them, and don't hold them in high regard.

Don't believe me? Think of someone you admire. Now google their name. There's a 99% chance you'll find something negative about them. As a matter of fact, there are entire blogs dedicated to criticizing certain people.

But the key is not to let the negativity stop you. I believe you should consider the criticism to see if it's valid, and if it is, make the necessary adjustments. But if it's not valid, you have got to be able to get over it, forget it and move on.

Now, back to Vegas!

There are 6 people in this coaching session and the few people that go ahead of me, while pretty good speakers, were completely picked apart by Patricia. Being no fool, I paid close attention to the feedback Patricia was giving and made mental adjustments in my head to make my presentation better when it was my turn.

Then, she called my name.

As I took my place in the front of the room, I knew the presentation would not exactly match what I had originally sent her, but I believed it to be for the better, as I had now incorporated the feedback she had given to other speakers. As I finished up my 10 minutes, I braced myself for what she had to say. And it was a good thing I did - as I'll never forget the first words out of her mouth. It went a little something like this:

Well, I see that you've done something completely different from what you sent in. And thank goodness because what you sent was quite dreadful. At least what you did today was better - but just barely.

Now, I had a choice, I could put my defenses up, argue with her, try to explain why she was wrong or simply shut down. But instead, I took a deep breath, relaxed my face and simply said - or should I say begged - "Help me!!!"

And help me she did. Everything from how I stand, to how I move, to what I do with my hands, to the cadence of my voice, to engaging the audience, to improving the layout of my speech, to developing better content, to staying true to the message and topic that I am so passionate about (helping people live a radical life).

What about you? If you want to go for greatness, you've got to be prepared to feel the heat. The heat of someone criticizing you. The heat of someone not liking what you're trying to do. The heat of failure. The heat of disappointments. The heat of someone really wanting to help you if you would only let them.

I thank Patricia for her honesty, her expertise, and her desire to help make me great. I got 200% better at my profession having spent those 2 days with her. And looking back, I'm really proud of myself. For that was the day I realized that yes - I can handle the heat.

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Doreen Rainey is a Life Coach and Speaker who helps her clients Get RADICAL!
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  1. I think you are right. It's so hard to hear someone criticize you - even if it's constructive.


  2. It is tough...but if it's coming from those who really have your best interest at heart, it makes it a little easier. But just a little! LOL