This past weekend, I volunteered to judge a youth speech and debate tournament. After sitting down at my first judging panel, I reviewed the rules of this round of speeches. As I was reading, the judge on my left looked over at me and asked, “Are you excited? We are probably looking at the leaders of tomorrow in here. Someone in here could very well be a future President, Congressman, or Media Celebrity!” Once the first round of judging was over, I had to agree. Each speaker impressed me with his or her preparation and presentation skills. Out of this competition, I found three lessons that all business owners and decision makers can apply immediately.
Lesson 1 – You can't just show up. Forget what you've heard about showing up being the key to success. The kids at this competition spent hours between rounds preparing their notes and practicing their presentations. Every spare minute they found they used to hone their craft. In your business, make sure you are doing more than just showing up. How you use your time will have a direct impact on how successful you will be.
Lesson 2 – Survive the first two minutes. Most of the speakers stumbled more than once at the very beginning of their speeches. The successful speakers were able to overcome those minor setbacks and still give a stirring presentation. Those few that were unable to recover early on continued to stumble throughout. In your business, expect to make mistakes and have minor setbacks in everything you start. Be ready and able to overcome these obstacles early on. Don't let them affect everything you do going forward.
Lesson 3 – Cut out the filler. Many of the speeches had time limits on them, even if the topics were so deep and rich that the speaker could spend days discussing them. The best presentations didn't cover all aspects of the topic, they focused on one specific element. When a presenter tried to cover too much, the speech sounded rushed and many times ran past the time limit. In your business, it is easy to get distracted by all of the minor mundane tasks. Don't let the filler of your day dominate your time. Stay focused on the big picture and put your time and energy into the activities that will return the most benefit to your company.