Connecting with the audience

A Brilliant Speech- the truth told simply

I was a guest speaker at ‘Inside & Out’ yesterday. It was a networking event for London-based banks as a part of their diversity efforts.  Its intention is simple.  To recruit brilliant people, who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans-gender into the banking industry.  Why? Because they want great people, whatever their sexuality.

There was another guest speaker, to headline the event.  His name, Gareth Thomas.

Thomas is an international rugby player.  Ex captain of Wales and a hard, uncompromising competitor.  He’s a working class boy with little formal education,  but he gave one of the best speeches I’ve ever seen.

I have to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. My experience of sports people giving speeches to corporate crowds is vast.  My joy at hearing them is bounded by the hideous embarrassment of that point in their speech where (their speech writer, looking for a link?), they finish the interesting bit about them, their triumphs and tragedies, and say something like-

“…And isn’t that a bit like investment banking/insurance/tourism/consulting* delete as appropriate…”

It’s embarrassing because they don’t need to do it.  If their story is good, we’ve already made the links, we don’t need help, and they don’t need to justify their fee.  And the answer to their question is, ‘no’, it’s nothing like investment banking etc.

They’re sportspeople, it’s a hobby.   They love their thing, they’re surrounded by amazing, motivated, talented people, they get a prize, recognition, glory.  We don’t. But we will forgive them all of those advantages, because we can be inspired by an analogy.  It doesn’t have to be forced to fit.

Anyway, I was expecting that.  We didn’t get it.  We got something wholly unexpected.  Gareth Thomas spoke about knowing he was gay and hiding it from everyone in his life for over 20 years.  He talked about suicide, shame, his mum and dad, his brothers and rugby.  The speech wasn’t about that, it was about doubt, love and our ability to accept and honour the choices that people make. Many of us were moved to the point of tears- all by different parts of the speech.

He was stilted because he was nervous.  He was hesitant because he thought he was going to cry.  His hands shook throughout.  He was virtually inaudible at times.  But he was brilliant.  He answered questions that no rugby audience would dare to ask him.  He was honest and I admired him so much more as a man, after his speech, than I did as a rugby player before.

It was electric.

For more information about ‘Inside & Out’, see here-

For more information about Gareth Thomas, see here-

This is a part of my Fit, Focus & Flair model. To be great, a presentation must be a perfect FIT for the situation; the content must have complete FOCUS on it’s purpose and message; and it must have enough FLAIR to stand out on the day, and in our memories. Learn more about developing your Fit, Focus and Flair.

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