My worst ever speaking gig

I've always had a fastidious approach to public speaking.

Not one for just hopping up on stage and talking off the cuff, I meticulously prepare for any presentation I make.

So when I was asked to speak on stage in front of two hundred or so business owners at the O2 a couple of years back - the biggest crowd I've ever presented to, by far - I wanted to make sure I was ready.

I had a 45-minute slot, and I spent hours and hours working on the content. I obsessed over the slides, the delivery, and the timings; tweaking and tinkering until it was just right.

And I decided to take a risk...

Rather than go with the usual, run-of-the-mill presentation style, where I'd share some strategies, statistics and information, I took some stories from my life, injected a little humour, and used them to demonstrate my points.

I won't lie: I was nervous as hell when I took to the stage.

I could feel my legs physically shaking and remember praying that no one would notice.

But as I started telling the first story and delivered the first joke, I heard a few ripples of laughter from the audience.

They were only quiet, but enough to bolster my confidence.

And then, when I reached the punchline of the first story, it happened...

The audience broke out in huge fits of laughter - the sort where knees were smacked and someone made a snorting noise like a pig. I got a huge round of applause and breezed through the rest of the talk, feeling like I'd nailed it.

I was in the bar after the event when someone from the audience approached me and asked me if I'd be willing to speak at the mastermind event they held each month.

They told me they were blown away by my presentation and wanted me to repeat it for their high-value clients.

So, a few weeks later, I rocked up at their event feeling quietly confident. After all, I knew how well the talk had gone done in the past.

I started the presentation without a hitch, until I made the first gag...

Tumbleweeds. Not so much as a snigger, let alone a laugh.

"It's ok," I thought. "The big punchline's coming up soon".

But as it neared, and every gag was met with an identical silent response, I got worried.

The punchline soon followed - the one that had received such a huge response from the big crowd - and it absolutely tanked.

There were a couple of half-smiles around the room, but that was it.

I learnt a valuable lesson that day:

Every piece of content you deliver needs to be tailored to your audience and the medium in which it's being delivered.

I'd designed that presentation to work in front of a big audience, and it did, but it didn't suit the intimate nature of the smaller gig.

So, remember:

The content you create for your marketing isn't one-size-fits-all.

The content that works well in an email to your engaged audience won't work in a Facebook ad to a cold audience.

Instead, consider the 3 Ms of marketing.

Market. Message. Media. In that order.


Nick Fisher