Every year, I travel over 100,000 miles to visit a number of foreign countries in order to present my philosophy with the hopes of inspiring and changing lives for the better. Although these trips require a lot of courage, hard work and money, the risk has usually been worth the reward. I am proud to have presented in over 30 countries around the world. As a result of developing my speaking skills, I have been exposed to exotic cultures, languages, foods and people. I cherish these adventures which have led to some of the greatest experiences in my life. But I have also learned to value the lessons from the worst. As I have shared in previous blogs, there have been a number of mistakes and disasters I have experienced during my career as a presenter. The worst of them all, however, was simply leaving a car for just a few minutes in Brussels, Belgium.
Whenever I travel to present in a foreign country for the first time, like other visitors, I like to get photos in front of that country’s famous landmarks and monuments. As a result of this passion, after collecting my bags in Brussels, my host and I immediately drove to visit the Atomium, a massive structure constructed for the 1958 World’s Fair. My host and I parked, got some photos outside of the architectural marvel and since it was also now a museum, we went inside to find some more inspiration. After the quick visit, we got back to the car and I found myself in a presenter’s “worst case” scenario: all of my bags, the presentation materials, projector, and screen had been stolen from the car! Inside of my bags were my computer, all my presenting tools (adapters, zip drives, remotes, etc.). I had lost everything. The only consolation was that I still had my wallet, passport, phone and camera.
After a trip to the police station, we were told robberies like mine were “very common” at the Atomium. I guess I was surprised the police didn’t seem concerned enough to patrol the area even though they knew what was happening. Being robbed is challenging on many levels. You feel violated. You are upset and angry. You lose a little faith in your fellow person. You are saddened that someone may have to steal your things to survive. All of those emotions coupled with the jet lag would have been more than enough to handle. But adding anxiety and fear to the mix because I had to still present for the attendees traveling from around Europe left me with the muscles in my neck so tight I could barely turn my head.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I had to remind myself I had a job to do. I knew this presentation would be one of my greatest challenges ever. If I could somehow pull off and get through this event, I would come out stronger on the other side.
After filing my report at the police department (they really weren’t optimistic) I immediately called home to have my backup presentation and manual emailed to me. While we went to a printer to have the new manuals printed, the host and I secured another projector and screen. After picking that up, we went to get me some new clothes and then stopped at the venue and set up for the next morning. Was it stressful? Yes. Was I empowering myself by taking action? Of course. But the real test would be trying to get to sleep, adjust to the new time zone and still deliver at my best.
The robbery really affected me. Although I was still upset at the time my event started the next morning, I promised myself and the audience to give everything I had. And I kept that promise. As a result of my years of training, I was able to mask my emotions and put on a great show for the crowd. I also did not burden them with the news of what had happened and let them believe they were getting my best effort yet.
Now many year later, I do realize the event has made me stronger. Although it was impossible to recognize at the time, this challenge taught me about the 6 P’s process that I feature in my online course Presenting Greatness. And each of these are important lessons every presenter should know:
- Things are occasionally not going to go to plan. Plan ahead.
- You should always have a backup to your backup. Prepare ahead.
- Your practice time will have you ready when you need it the most. Practice often.
- Regardless of how you feel, you must always deliver at your best. Present with greatness.
- A presentation is not about you, it is about your audience. Probe for feedback.
- The show must always go on. Promote yourself as reliable.
After the applause ended, the hands were shook and the photos taken, I got to reflect on the challenge and the overall experience. Even though I would not wish getting robbed like that on anyone, the event did force me out of my comfort zone and took me to another level.
On my course Presenting Greatness, I take you through an exercise to find your “reason” for becoming a presenter. I believe understanding this about yourself is critical to future success as a speaker. How do I know? Because my experience in Belgium reminded me of my own purpose. Now I present with inspiration and high energy hoping the ripples of my talks spread so far and wide that as a result, someone is empowered and doesn’t ever have to resort to stealing.
After the days of presenting in Belgium, I decided to treat myself to a day trip in Paris. Since I was only a train ride away, I purchased a ticket, spent the day walking the city, trying the food and reflecting on my week. As I stood atop the Eiffel Tower, I knew I had passed a great test. Yes, I was still angry and upset, but I was also grateful for the huge presenting challenge that my years of training had helped me to overcome.
As a presenter, it is not if you will face challenges, it is when. And when those challenges arise, all of your preparation will have you ready to succeed. If you would like to be more ready for your next challenge, you need Presenting Greatness.