Why You Might Want to Share a Failure Early In Your Speech

Sharing a failure story early in my speech

You can gain an instant and lasting connection with your audience by sharing your failures and flaws. Sometimes sharing your frustrations and firsts also helps. Why is this?

Why Some People Don’t Like Motivational Speakers

Lots of people don’t care for motivational speakers because they are used to hearing the kind that think a motivational speech should consist of bragging about their successes and then telling their audience members, “You can do it too!” Well guess what? If you just speak on your successes and not about your failures, they will not believe they can do it. They’ll simply believe you can do it.

Why You Should NOT Come Across As Special

The absolute last thing you ever want an audience to think is that you are special. The very first thing you want them to think is that you are similar; similar to them. When they think you are similar, they will automatically realize you must have a special process that helped you succeed. As a result, they will want that same special process and that’s why you will be able to influence them to take the next step towards getting it.  What I am saying is that when you lift yourself up, you let your audience down. Those who are driven by their ego when speaking will end up on a dead-end road.

Why You Might Want to Share a Failure Before Sharing a Success

Since I began to understand that there is power in pain, I started opening my speeches with various stories about my own failures. Here’s a quick story that I’ve shared with Toastmaster audiences over the years (74 seconds in length).

This works well because it throws my audience off and lets them think, “Hey, I can relate to that.” But here’s what else it does. When I finally DO share one of my success stories (which you should definitely eventually share in your speech), my audience actually cares! That’s right, when they know you’ve failed, they care when you’ve won. That’s the beauty behind sharing a failure story early in your speech.

My 4 Fs (Failures, Flaws, Frustrations, and Firsts)

Below are some examples of what I have shared over the years and hopefully they can help you search  for situations in your own life that you can dig up, dust off, and share.

  • I share my poor SAT score
  • I share how I bombed during a high-paid engagement
  • I share how I lost a humorous speech contest at the lowest possible level
  • I share how I was hurt when my speaking idol ignored me
  • I share how I almost let negativity stop me from writing The Nuts and Bolts of Public Speaking
  • I share how I got speech coaching and realized I was not where I needed to be as a speaker
  • I share how I was called Daffy Duck because of the enormous lisp I had as a child
  • I share how I put a man out of the residential Employment Academy program I was directing and he was shot and killed on the streets of Baltimore later that night
  • Here’s an example of another “failure” which helped me connect with the first few words of my speech.

FYI – I have also seen my friend and fellow World Champion Darren LaCroix literally show his first time on stage doing comedy. Believe me, when people see that video clip and then realize he went from that to a World Champion of Public Speaking, it gives them hope. Mission accomplished.

 Your Turn

Think about the times you’ve failed, felt flawed, been frustrated, or done something for the first time that wasn’t anything to write home about, and then be courageous enough to open up and share it. People will not think less of you. In fact, they will think more of your process for how you went from where you were to where you are. More importantly, they’ll think more of their ability to do the same. Just think; your failure can lead to their success.

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Craig Valentine

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