The Irony of It All (plus free visual downloads of speaking tips)

 At the bottom of this post are 8 pages of visual notes from the most recent Think Big Speak Easy.

Let’s face it, for the first couple of years that you’re pursuing something new, you’re not usually that good at it. Your understanding of what is good and your expectations for yourself are greater than your ability to produce at that level.

I heard Ira Glass describe it like this. He said, and I paraphrase, you get into creative work because you have good taste but when you’re starting out there’s a gap. What you’re trying to make isn’t that good. It’s trying to be good. It has ambition to be good but it’s not that good yet. But your taste is still great so you are disappointed by what you create and that hurts.

It Shakes Your Confidence

That really makes sense to me. And, it shakes your confidence. It makes you question whether you’re on the right path.

  • If you’re a new product creator, there isn’t yet parity between what you want to create and what you actually create.
  • If you’re a new author, what you write doesn’t quite live up to your expectations.
  • If you’re a new speaker or performer, the experience you create for your audience might not yet be as exciting as you want it to be.

If you expect your work to be perfect, brilliant, and award winning your first time out, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you do the work, you won’t be disappointed in yourself. That’s where the hours, days, weeks, months and years of practice and training come into play.

I’m not saying that your first endeavor won’t be a hit but there are rarely overnight success stories. Yes, my first book became an immediate hit in 2006 but I’d been working on the material for three years. And I had studied how books are marketed for those same three years. Now I can produce the same quality of work in six months.

Pulling It Off

When I started speaking professionally, I’d been a working actor for five years having spent three years prior to that at NYU’s Graduate Acting Program earning my M.F.A. That means three years of voice, speech, acting, singing, clowning, movement and body awareness classes from 9am-5pm and rehearsals from 6pm-10pm five days a week and full day rehearsals on Saturdays. Plus, another two years in college and that’s a total of 10 years both studying and working professionally. And, yet, still, I wasn’t a brilliant professional speaker when I started.

I could “pull it off” because I was a trained actor, had natural talent as a performer and decent content. But “pulling it off” and deserving, earning and owning the stage are not one and the same. I wasn’t masterful because I didn’t have the hours in that discipline.

Moreover, I didn’t connect the amount of development and rehearsal time it took to put on a theatrical production with the amount of development and rehearsal time it took to give a speech.

I do now.

And I think they’re equivalent. That is, if you want to create magical and meaningful experiences for an audience and you want to be a highly paid professional speaker.

The Irony of It

I work harder on my presentations now than I did before I had experience. I know, you might think the opposite would be the case. That’s the irony. The better you get, the more you prepare. The bar is now higher. The expectations are greater. But, now I understand what it takes to be at the top of the field. If you want to play in the big leagues, you’ve got to train like a superstar.

  • Michael Jordan didn’t take fewer practice shots than his competition.
  • Alan Dershowitz hasn’t read fewer legal briefs than his opposing counsel.
  • Meryl Streep doesn’t spend fewer hours developing a character.
  • General Norman Schwarzkopf didn’t spend fewer hours developing and studying battle strategies than the opposing forces.

So, try to move away from the mentality of, “Well, I’ll do a good job for my first time out.” Train, rehearse, prepare as if you’re a seasoned veteran and your performance is a life or death matter. Raise the stakes. It’s more exciting. Play bigger. It’s thrilling.

Do it on your own or do it with me in the Think Big Speak Easy.

The following are 8 pages of visual notes by Kelly Kingman from a recent one day Think Big Speak Easy event.

10 thoughts on “The Irony of It All (plus free visual downloads of speaking tips)


I appreciate your point about the need to practice increasing as you get better. Part of what a new speaker learns is *how to practice.*

I’ve tried out different preparation methods — write up notes and wing it, write the speech and (try to) memorize it, use slides for notes. At times I’ve spent longer in bad practice — ineffective practice — than it takes to do good practice.

The key is find the way to practice well, and that’s an important part of what a new speaker (including me) needs to learn.

Michael Port

Indeed Jan! You hit it right on the nose.

We practice a sport we rehearse a performance 🙂

Dawn Jumper

Love these visual notes! Thanks so much for sharing.

Cathy Presland


Great points. And hard as it is to open our nervous souls to feedback, what better way to move towards mastery than this process of practice and feedback and more practice.

Which leads me to ask …. I’d love it if you could bring a live speakeasy event to the UK.


Michael Port

That’s very sweet… asking for me to come to the UK. Many others have as well so I’m sure it’s in the cards.


giving so much though to rehearsal, and these visual notes are awesome thank you! I have to say again the value of the event was definitely 10x what I paid!

Kelly Kingman

Hi Michael,

Such a thrill to see the notes featured here, thanks! Glad they resonated for so many.

Thanks again for an inspiring workshop!



Kelly and Michael, There’s so much great stuff in the post and the great drawing notes that I am immediately changing a presentation I will be giving in June, starting with preparing notes for the introducer. Thanks so much for this.

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