the problem with perfection

Me, pretty imperfect.

Me, often imperfect.

I love every single blog post on Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen site.  I’ve got a healthy roster of speaking engagements booked this year.  I will have the honour of sharing my stories with Community & Hospital Pharmacists, Emergency Room Physicians, Adapted Physical Education students, and University academics and staff, and I refer to the Presentation Zen wisdom often.

Generally, I speak to share my three key messages from a family perspective in the health and education systems:
1.  How the little things mean a lot to children & families
2.  The birth and life of every child should be celebrated
3.  Expressing gratitude for the kindness and compassion shown by professionals and others who work with our kids

Over the years, I’ve concocted some rules for myself for speaking engagements.  Many of these lessons I’ve learned from Presentation Zen.

Know thy audience well.  Tell stories.  Use anecdotes to illustrate your key messages. Use humour.  Be positive first.  Be constructive about the negative stuff.  Laugh at yourself.  Take deep breaths.  It isn’t about you, stupid (it is about the message you want to leave with the audience).  Create slides with more white space, more pictures, more quotes and less bullet points.   Wear comfortable shoes.  Don’t wear jangly jewelry. Make eye contact.  Smile.  Say thank you.  Most of all: be human.

Part of being human is making mistakes.  I’m not a perfect speaker.  I wave my arms around a lot, and need to have speaking notes in front of me, even if I never look at them.  I don’t memorize stuff or walk around on stage.  I can talk too fast, and I can say ‘um’ too much.  But one thing I always am is passionate.  I think people in the audience relate more to passionate people than scripted robots.

Garr Reynolds talks about the danger of perfection in his blog post, Imperfection, Mistakes and the Courage to Overcome Them. He says that little imperfections don’t get in the way of the message if we take the time to connect with our audiences.  I particularly love the quote from singer Idina Menzel, who says, You can’t get it all right all the time, but 
you can try your best. If you’ve done that, all 
that’s left is to accept your shortcomings and have 
the courage to try to overcome them.

And that applies to not only singing or public speaking, but in real life too.  Go ahead: stand on that platform (in that clinic room, at that school meeting, at that podium, behind the microphone), take a deep breath, and tell your story.  I guarantee if you believe in what you have to say, others will too.  Join me in being joyfully imperfect.

One thought on “the problem with perfection

  1. sbiggar says:

    Thanks, Sue. He is fantastic! How can I have lived on this planet (and given as many talks as I do) without meeting him before? Thank you, thank you…Susan B

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