Why I Blog

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Feb 20th, 2008
Feb 20


A few friends have asked me why I would add to my workload (which includes a corporate blog) by posting my own personal blog about public speaking. One obvious reason for me is that forcing myself to review my own process and method for speaking in the front of the room helps me continue to improve. While I have learned a great deal about speaking over the last eight years, I still learn something new every day. Each time I get up in front of the room I get valuable feedback that will help me the next time.


I also learn a great deal in the research for each post. As the Roman Philosopher Seneca once wrote "we learn by teaching". I likely would have never have seen Dick Hardt’s Identity presentation or the videos of Steve Riley if I wasn’t writing blog posts about great tech speakers. I may not have seen those amazing Lessig videos either. Each of those speakers and their videos hold new ideas and new techniques that I likely would have never learned if not for blogging about public speaking.



But that is not my only motivation. Back in May of 2000, I was sitting in a hotel lounge in Marietta, Georgia at about 7 pm after long day that included three separate presentations to customers and resellers in the Atlanta area. I was frustrated that I still did not feel comfortable with speaking in front of the room, and wondering if I ever would. My manager George V called me on my cell to try to keep my spirits up, but it was very difficult to see a future where I was comfortable speaking in front of a group of people. I sat at a small table drinking a beer and wondered to myself how I was going to solve this problem. As I was sitting there staring off into space, someone tapped me on the shoulder. Startled, I looked up to see a older man in his late forties with  salt and pepper hair, a gray goatee, and a white shirt with a dark blue tie.

"Pardon me." he said. "Have you seen a tall older gentleman in a white suit walk by here? I am supposed to meet him here and I am a bit early."


"No, I haven’t seen him." I replied.


"Well, at least I have a few minutes to relax." he responded.


I nodded and smiled as he turned and head to the bar. I heard him order two Miller Lites, then turn and head directly for my table.


"Do you mind if I join you?" he asked.


I was surprised he was so forward, but I said yes.


"You look like you could use some company, and I have a few minutes to wait." He asked me about my work, and I told him I was a newly hired System Engineer for a software company. He told me his name was Ed.  We exchanged some small talk, and he told me he was an SE himself back in the early eighties. He told me that hardest part for him was learning to become a better speaker.

"I am having a bit of trouble myself." I admitted.


"My manager back then gave me two pieces advice that I have never forgotten. First, the audience decides the meaning. Second, keep doing what works, change what doesn’t. If the meaning the audience gets is not what you intended, try something else.That’s it. I was constantly frustrated because I often felt like I was speaking in tongues. No one seemed to understand what our software did our why they would want it. I felt like I couldn’t get through to anyone. "


"Wow." I said. "I feel that same way almost every time. It is so frustrating." I replied.


"Once I stopped taking my failure to communicate personally and stopped trying the same old methods that didn’t work, I slowly began to get better and better results. Let the audience decide the meaning, pay attention to the response, and try something different if it isn’t the response you want. It is as simple as that." Ed replied.


"I never thought of it that way, but it makes perfect sense." We spent a few minutes talking over some specific examples, then the tall older man in the white suit walked up and tapped him on the shoulder.


"Well, it looks like our time is up. Thanks for letting me join you."


"Thank you Ed. I appreciate the advice."


Ed turned and looked me directly at me. "My grandfather always told me the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are both fed from the River Jordan. The Sea of Galilee is full of life and surrounded by villages while the Dead Sea is literally dead and stagnant. The Sea of Galilee is full of life because it has an outflow, while the Dead Sea doesn’t.  The key to being vibrant and full of life is having an outflow. Remember that."


"I will." I said. Ed shook my hand and walked away.



I never saw Ed again, but I never forgot the lessons he taught me that day. That day was the beginning of my journey to becoming a more effective speaker. My idea for the post on "The Six Rs to Beat the Curse" is based on Ed’s advice. "The audience decides the meaning" is the basis for "Response", and "keep what works, change what doesn’t" became "Reflect" . All the rest of the Six Rs ultimately flowed from the lessons Ed shared with me that day. I share them now on this blog as my outflow, my key to "being vibrant and full of life" like Ed.





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3 Responses

  1. Andrew Hill Says:

    Great Story!

  2. Jonathan of Speechmasteryblog.com Says:

    Your comment resonates with me. One of my students took a challenge and taught a public speaking class. On doing so, his speaking abilities grew exponentially.

    This could be true for about everyone. The best way to learn is to teach.

  3. SpeechmasteryBlog.com » Blog Archive » To Master Speaking, Teach Speaking Says:

    [...] found an interesting post on why this guyblogs. One of the best ways to master something is to teach it. Blogging helps you to master your [...]

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