Select the right words. Say them well.


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The answer to the above question can be found in any excellent performance you have ever witnessed. My wife and I recently saw “Hamilton.” The answer was right there for all to see. Have you watched an outstanding athlete at the top of their game? Your answer can be found there as well. How about your favorite singer or live music group? Same answer. So, what is this incredible secret sauce we all need to know and understand? Well, let’s consider the common thread which runs through each of the examples above.

For the actors on stage performing the most acclaimed Broadway product in years, it is hours of practice and, in many cases, years of experience. There was the high bar set by playwright and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda when the show took New York and the world by storm. Now there are companies in big cities and touring troupes bringing the Hamilton magic across the country and, recently, even to London. Among them exists a healthy rivalry – an expectation of greatness because of the original standard set by Miranda. The thrill of those early performances – a hip hop version of American history which speaks as loudly today as any learned textbook – launched a movement which shows no sign of slowing. But, what makes all of it possible? I would submit it is the same thing that keeps you from being at the top end of the speaker world: practice and experience.

How about those thrilling games you remember to this day? Brett Favre quarterbacking the Packers, Michael Jordan at his amazing peak or Billie Jean King letting girls know top-level tennis is their game, too. And why do they stick in our brains even now? Again, standout performances fueled by practice and experience.
What about great music acts? It is said the Beatles only really became the Beatles after crushingly long days toiling in Hamburg, Germany. Practice and experience.

So, let’s take this knowledge and apply it to the next time you’re asked the dreaded question: “Hey, can you give the new technology report at the Client Summit next week? Jenna is out-of-town, and I’ll need you to fill in.” Yikes you’re thinking, “Jenna always kills that talk. How am I supposed to hold a candle to her?” Well, it’s the same reason you wouldn’t be expected to fill-in when Hamilton comes to town or join the line-up of the Red Sox anytime soon – you don’t have the practice and experience Jenna calls upon every time she stands up to speak.

What’s happening here is you are framing the question incorrectly. You are nervous when you stand up to speak because you don’t do it enough. Why would you suddenly be great at anything you don’t do very often? Nobody is! So, resolve now to spend some time on this so you can be ready when the request comes your way. Volunteer to speak at your house of worship or for your favorite non-profit. Join Toastmasters. Get some practice in front of small groups at work. The time to start is now.

My friend and colleague Marty Latz has written an interesting book on the President and his negotiation style, The Real Trump Deal. Not surprisingly, communication has a lot to do with one’s ability in the negotiation game. The book has a ton of insight from a negotiation guru.

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: