Share

Last week, I spoke to a conference of 400 logistics/delivery executives and owners about Millennials and generational differences in the workforce. Well, I talked to about half of them. The other half were at another session or possibly still sleeping off the night before.

Turns out, the logistics industry is interesting because they’re super-focused on technology and innovation while not having the luxury to talk like a bunch of Valley assholes. Sure, the robots are coming to a highway near you, but no robot is delivering your mattress anytime soon. Logistics and delivery professionals are intensely focused on driving the last mile from the road to your door, and providing you with excellent customer experience.

Who knew? Not me. I had no idea, which is the joy of being a public speaker. As your audience grows, you have the pleasure and privilege of learning and growing as a multifaceted human being. That’s what I love most about my job.

So I’m prepping for this event — and remember, my session is about Millennials — and I’m told two things about my audience.

    These dudes (and it’s almost all white men at this event) operate under exceedingly difficult timelines. They can’t be late for anything. Traffic. Weather. Illness. Injury. Doesn’t matter. The concepts of “logistics” and “delivery” are built on the notion that you’ve got to be on time, which is especially stressful. If you’re not five minutes early, you are late.
    These dudes hate artifice. I would fail as a speaker if I showed up and tried to be Suzy HR Lady with a stuffy presentation and a rigid delivery style. No jargon, no funny tricks with the audience, and no boring stories. Be authentic and wake them up because they’re gonna be hung over.

So, of course, my flight is super-delayed getting to the conference. I’m paranoid that I’ll be the first asshole-speaker to miss an event solely dedicated to logistics experts who pride themselves on being on time.

Eventually, I rolled into the hotel at two o’clock in the morning and found a bunch of executives closing down the bar. I was pleased to see that they really do let loose. The conference organizers weren’t lying, which was a relief.

I went up on stage the next morning with three hours of sleep. I wore a blazer and slacks and sensible shoes — just like Suzy HR Lady — but I deployed my shock-and-awe methodology of swearing within the first thirty seconds. Then I made fun of Millennials. Well, that’s not true. I made fun of everybody. Millennials. Gen Xers. My parents. The audience itself. I tried to use my mindfulness + improv + stand-up skills to make a session on Millennials seem fresh and new.

It was the best time I’ve had on stage in years.

Two highlights:

    I got heckled once by a guy who told me that I was mistaken. Thirtysomething wasn’t a TV show, it’s Twentysomething. I’m happy to report that he was summarily booed by his colleagues before I could even correct him. Then I asked him to get on stage and mansplain my presentation for me.
    Another guy asked me how to get Millennials to put down their phones, and, as you can imagine, this dude was my age and his phone out for my entire presentation. So I’m like, buddy, you put down your phone first before you criticize Millennials.

After the presentation, I was mobbed. The Thirtysomething guy came up to the stage and apologized to me. Also, he was humble and super good-natured. Other people came up and told me that I’m little and fierce, which are super-secret feminist compliments. I’ll take that. Most importantly, everybody told me that they learned something.

That’s a win.

I’ve been working hard on GlitchPath and trying to move away from the world of human resources. Like anybody trying something new, I’m full of doubt and fear. I’m also incredibly hard on myself. I’m willing to allow other people to fail while holding myself to an unreasonably high standard. It sucks to be bad at something new. It also sucks to be so public about sucking.

That’s why it felt pretty good to get on stage and get the W. It feels good to be up above the clouds. I want more of it. Please!

One Response to Winning as a Public Speaker
  1. Eileen Davis

    Great post! I’m always telling my daughter that she’s “tiny and fierce”. Way to go, Laurie!