How My Ego Led To One Of My Worst Speeches Ever

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How My Ego Led To One Of My Worst Speeches Ever

When I started the talk, there were 400 people in the room. When I finished, only 70 remained. Of those remaining 70, 50 were orientation leaders who were paid to be there.

About halfway through the hour long talk, I remember looking out over the crowd and saying to myself, “no one is even listening to you right now.”

One table in the front row, that I bonded with prior to program, was holding out for as long as they could and trying their hardest to pay attention. At one point, the power of social pressure kicked in and they left as well. That’s when I knew it was over. Defeated, I knew I lost this battle.

At the end of the program, my host quickly came up to me and apologized for the program and thanked me for battling through. We then went into the war room and debriefed what went wrong. The list was long:

  • Round tables, chairs turned away
  • Room super spread out
  • Bad sound
  • Big gap between stage and audience
  • Tiny screen
  • Tons of background noise (mascot, exhibit tables, etc)
  • Prizes and lunch already handed out
  • Students sitting next to their parents
  • Group think..”If everyone else is leaving, I’ll leave too.”
  • etc…

So many variables, that I’ve written about before, led to a horrible program. We all agreed that it wasn’t the right set up and readjusted for the next day which involved several changes including not having me speak.

Prior to this program, I was on a three-year run of almost non-stop awesome programs topped off by winning APCA 2014 Campus Speaker of the Year. It was my fourth time winning the award. I felt invincible in my speaking. With my invincibility came confidence. With confidence came ego and with ego came complacency.

When I look back on our debrief list now, the thing that stands out the most to me is I don’t suggest that I needed to change in the moment to adjust to the situation. I put all the blame on external factors outside of my control. By doing so, I gave all my power to things I can’t control in the moment, whereas the one thing I know I can control, in any moment, is myself.

What if I pulled out $100 from my pocket and every 10 minutes gave one person in the audience $100 to be picked up at the end. What if I switched from trying to deliver a message to setting up small group activities or challenges. I could’ve done several alternative programs that led to a better outcome, but I didn’t.

I pull three lesson out of this experience:

1) If I don’t check my own ego, life will check it for me.
2) Don’t let my confidence in my craft get in the way of constantly improving. There’s always more I can improve on.
3) Blaming external factors for my failure gives away all my power to change the situation.

Tom Krieglstein
Tom Krieglstein
Tom started his first business, an online retail store, as a junior in college which he grew to $1.5 million dollars in annual sales. Through his second company, Swift Kick, Tom has spoken to over half a million leaders around the US and the world including South Korea, Indonesia, and Bermuda. Tom was named the #1 leadership speaker an unprecedented 5 years. He’s a TEDx speaker, Guinness World Record holder, and has co-authored the award winning book “First Year Student to First Year Success.”And on a personal note, Tom lives in New York City, was named after a cat, and loves peanut butter.