It was Saturday evening, buffet after the CEE Speech Contest in Bratislava. I’m on a mission. Meet people and invite them to the Toastmasters Division conference in Prague that takes place on 5th April.
With my mindset firmly in place to Seek and convince, I made my way around the room. I spotted Csilla, the winner of the International Speech contest in English. Almost certainly, she would be coming to Prague to compete at the Division level – but still, it was worth checking whether she would be joining us for the party that’s planned for the evening.
“Hi, I guess you’re coming to the Division conference in Prague on April 5th?“, I opened – no messing about, straight to the point.
“Hi. Yes, I am.”
“Great. There will be a party in the evening, so make sure you’ll have a place to stay on Saturday night.”
“All right… And, by the way” she continued, “I liked your speech. I think it was a great story and it had a good message”.
I knew it could have been just a phrase said out of politeness – but it made me feel better anyway. At least, if she thought my speech really sucked, she wouldn’t say this, right? Either way, it made me continue the conversation for a little longer.
When I was about to leave and hunt for my next target, I heard her say: “One more thing…”
I looked at her curiously.
“I’m sure someone told you already, but – next time, wear a jacket.”
I was puzzled. Is it really necessary to be dressed up like when I am in a bank?
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You sweated. And because you only had a shirt, the stains were visible. This is why you put a jacket on, when you perform. If you feel hot in a jacket, it’s ok – even if you sweat a bit more, nobody will notice. And you can change the shirt afterwards.”
For a moment, I stood there speechless. After 6 hours hearing motivational and inspiring talks, watching star-speakers cope with short improvisations and a one-hour workshop with Tony Achmat – toastmaster with 50 years of public speaking experience – I knew THIS was the key takeaway from the day.
Next Time – Wear a Jacket.
There was a second take-away. On the spot I realized, that this comment was as valuable as a pile of diamonds. There were some people that day who patted me on the shoulder and said “Nice Speech”. I don’t say I am not grateful for those positive comments – of course I am. And I also know that it’s much more convenient to give people positive comments, than pointing out the sweat stains on their shirt.
But – that makes the straightforward feedback of the inconvenient kind even more valuable. I wonder if I would give such feedback to someone else, if I was put in that position.
We’ll have to wait till the next time I see some guy giving a speech… without a jacket.