Martin shares how he got his start in public speaking and the three importance lessons he learned during his most difficult speech ever.
This is Martin Rooney, founder and head coach of Training for Warriors. During my world travels I’ve had the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the most interesting and successful people from all walks of life. On this podcast those same people will be sharing their secrets of success with you. Join me as we go Into The Roar.
Hello everyone. This is Martin Rooney and this is another mini-episode of Into the Roar. This comes compliments of the firstname.lastname@example.org. What do I mean by that? What I mean is, if you write in to email@example.com, and you have anything that you’d like to hear, a story from me or my thoughts on a certain topic, hey you’re going to help out the show but also help me to make sure I deliver for you exactly what you’re looking for to have a better chance of going into the roar.
This episode, the topic behind it, is speaking. You could say “public speaking” as well, or “success tips for speaking”, but a number of the questions that I’ve received is, “Hey, what are your tips for being a better speaker? How did you become a speaker? What are your secrets?” I want to give you a little history first. I have had the opportunity to present for top military organizations like the Army Rangers, the Navy Seals, Army Airborne. I have presented to professional sports teams around the world. I have presented for Fortune 500 companies. I have been a keynote speaker, in particular I got the opportunity to rock thousands in Wembley Stadium London.
Why I say those things is not to impress you, but impress upon you that today I’m going to talk about speaking, and I’m going to try to convince you that you can do it. There’s nothing special about me and if you follow some of the tips that I’m going to talk about, I guarantee you’re going to have a better shot of making somebody feel better than before they met you, which is a huge, huge piece about public speaking.
Now some people have also asked me, “Hey, have you made money speaking?” I would also say, “yes”. I would say this, my job essentially, I work in words. I’m a speaker. I’m a writer, and hey, I have generated millions of dollars as both speaker and a writer. Again, I don’t say that to impress you. I’m proud to say those things, but I want to show you today how it all started. Before I do, I also want to tell you this. I told you all the places I presented, and all the people, and all the stuff.
But what you didn’t see was for years, years, listen to that one, for years every Monday and Wednesday night I would give free speeches to anybody that would come, so I could work on my craft. So you don’t just present for thousands of people and for thousands of dollars in Wembley Stadium next week. You’ve got to put in the work and do things for a long, long time, and devote yourself to your craft, which I really believe speaking is a craft or a skill, but understanding that, if you learn the strategies behind speaking, then you can be more successful.
So again, I wanted to just give you some of that history before we start, and now I want to go way, way back about where I started officially. If I were to pinpoint where I officially started as a speaker, it goes all the way back to when I was in 8th grade. So everybody hear that, 8th grade. I’m 13 years old. I will never forget it. My teacher, who he was amazing. His name was Mr. Malara. The guy was so exciting, but where I really connected with him is not only was he a great teacher, he was a professional baseball scout. He had a twin brother. They both taught at our school in Sayreville Junior High in Sayreville, New Jersey, and he and his brother were scouts for the Toronto Blue Jays. I loved baseball, so I just thought they were so interesting.
Why I say that is because it wasn’t just that I liked him as a teacher, I liked him as a person, and I didn’t want to let him down, and I wanted to do a good job for the guy because I thought he was important. Right? So here was the assignment. We had to read a book. This was English class, but he also coupled it with speaking. This was the first time it ever happened to me, but you had to read a book, and then you had to get up, every kid in the class had to get up in front of the class, and give a speech about the book.
I want to start off by saying this, “I was terrified.” Did everybody hear that? I was terrified. You’ve probably heard it before. People are more afraid of public speaking than they are dying. So people would rather be in the coffin than give the eulogy at the funeral. Now again, when faced with it right at the end, I wonder if sometimes if that’s really true or not, or if that’s just a Seinfeld joke. But either way, either way, people have a grave fear of public speaking, and I have it too. Still to this day before every speech I am nervous, I am uptight, but I’m going to show you today how that can be your greatest strength. It can be your greatest value.
So, Mr. Malara’s class, 8th grade. I’m 13 years old, which is an impressionable time to stand up in front of girls and give a speech. At the time I was reading the C.S. Lewis Narnia books, which have now come full circle, and now 30 years later they are movies. But I was reading those and it was one of those books. I had read the book. I enjoyed the books, and here was where I made a big mistake. I wrote down my entire speech. I wrote down everything I was going to say. I was prepared. I was ready I thought.
When my name and on my day finally got called, I got up in front of the group, and guess what I did? Yup. You guessed it. What I did is I got up there and with my face pinned down in the piece of paper, all I did was read the entire speech. So I read the entire speech, but I thought I did an amazing job. I read the entire speech, and I sat down. You know you got your lame applause from the group just like everybody else did, and I sat down. I was proud of myself. I’m sitting in my chair, and I’d done my job, and I’d overcome my fear.
As the bell rang and we were leaving, Mr. Malara said, “Martin, can I talk to you for a second?” I went up and I’m thinking I’m going to hear some congratulations and he said, “Hey, Martin, about your speech.” I said, “Yeah, Mr. Malara, what did you think?” He says, “Unfortunately for your speech, I’m going to have to fail you.” Now I want you to understand something too, and maybe some day I’ll address this on Into the Roar. When I was a kid I wasn’t the best student. Not even close, but 6th, 7th, 8th grade things really started to change.
I was getting people that were really influencing me in my life and I wanted to get better grades. I was determined to get better grades. As a result of that, I immediately, when he told me I had failed, this was the first time that I had heard something like that. No one had told me that I had ever failed something, at least in the last three years, and I knew what failing something was going to do to my grades. It would destroy my grades. If I failed, how would I recover from this? As he’s telling me this, I froze, I panicked, and I started to cry.
So yes, I started to cry because I was so upset that I had failed myself, I had failed him, and to be honest I didn’t even know what I did wrong. Because I think in that moment of showing my emotion, Mr. Malara, who was probably overcome in emotion he said, “Martin, I’m going to give you an opportunity right now to change your grade. I’m going to give you an opportunity to change your grade and you have to decide right now if you’re going to do it or not.” I said, “Well what is it?” He says, “You’re going to come back tomorrow. You’re going to come back tomorrow and you are going to give your speech again, and I’m giving you a chance that if you raise the grade on that speech, you can have that grade instead of the failing grade.” Without hesitation I said, “I’ll do it. I’ll do it.”
Man, I ran out of there and now I was a man on a mission, a 13 year-old kid on a mission. I went to the only person that could help me out at that point. The only person that I knew had some speaking experience. I sat waiting home until he got home. It was my dad. My dad, who I had watched speak in church when I was growing up, and I’d always been so impressed because he was really good at it, and I’d watched him handle himself in his business, and so when he got home I said, “Dad, here’s the scenario and here’s what’s going on and I got to be ready.” He said, “What are those books you’re reading again?” He was familiar with the books. I told him what I guess I had done wrong. He said, “Well, we’re going the only place we got to go right now, if we’re going to make this an A speech. And we went into the garage.
We went into the garage and I’m like, “Okay. What are we doing in here, Dad?” He’s like, “Well, hey, this is those C.S. Lewis things. You know these guys fighting in battles. These knights with shining armor.” So my dad gets out the bandsaw in our place and he cuts out a sword and a shield. He cuts out a sword and a shield and he has me stand up on a box and give the speech over, and over, and over, and would correct me, and then again, and again, and again. I would just practice, and practice, and prep. We did it late into the night until he finally said, “You know what? Now you’re ready.” He said, “You’re going to go in tomorrow with that sword and that shield. You’re going to stand up on a chair, and you’re going to give that speech like they never saw a speech before, and you’re going to get an A.
Now, if you thought I was terrified when I went up there and read on a piece of paper, now I’m carrying a sword and a shield around for my like day at school, which I’m already taking some flack for that because back then guys people weren’t easy on you, picking on you. For sure. But man when my turn came, and I’ll tell you this, when he said, “Martin”, and it couldn’t have been a tougher speech. That’s why I say this was my toughest speech ever. Wembley Stadium was a joke. This was my toughest speech ever. I’m 13 years old. I’m 13 years old and now the kids hear that I gotta give the same crummy speech again. I gotta give that same speech again. You could just see their eyes rolling, “Oh man.”
You know what? I walked up. I dragged the chair up. I got up on the chair. I had the stuff. They’re chuckling. They don’t know what’s going on. I delivered, what I consider at that point, the speech of my life. The kids were clapping at the end. They were laughing. They were on fire. Mr. Malara loved it. I turned that F into an A. But what also clicked and turned in the mind of that 13 year-old kid that day was, “If I practice enough, and I’m prepared enough, and I over-deliver way beyond what anybody expects, there’s no way I’m going to fail. I’m getting an A.” I have done that with every speech since.
So I challenge you. Watch some of my stuff online. Watch anything that I do. I’m always prepped just like I am for this podcast mini-episode right here. I am prepared. I have practiced. I know what I’m talking about, and I am trying to over-deliver. It’s maybe some of the best advice I can give you that you don’t often see in public speaking books. But that is my story. Right? Now whether you want to be a speaker or you want to do anything, guys, those three ideas right there, practice, preparation and over-delivering, you can use that for anything in your life. If you want to do a better job at your work, practice, be super prepared, and over-deliver beyond what anybody expects.
See, if you just live to the expectation, you’re not doing much and nothing’s happening. That’s a C at best. But if you always over-deliver, right, if you always go beyond and give more than expected, man like you can’t fail. From that day was maybe one of the most important lessons I’ve learned until this day too. If I’m giving a speech, everybody knows. I go to some of the coolest places in the world to give speeches, and everybody else will be out partying or checking out. Man, days before my speech I am practicing. Even if I’ve given it a ton of times like I can’t not practice. I’m still living like that 8th grade kid, because man I always want to get that A.
So it’s really what I just shared with you. It’s not the secret of speaking. Practicing until you’ve got it down, being overprepared so there are no surprises, and over-delivering beyond what anybody could expect, that’s a secret to life. So hey, I hope that one answers it. You know it’s kind of interesting because I just presented this past week for what’s called “The Tactical Strength and Conditioning Association” where I was presenting from leaders in the military of physical fitness. I was kind of out of my element a little bit and delivering, but you know what, same thing. I practiced, and I prepped, and I gave everything I had. The feedback that I’ve received as a result, again it proved to me 30 something years later than 8th grade, that it just won’t fail you.
On Into the Roar. Remember I’m here to entertain you, but I’m also here to change you. So what I would challenge you, always take action. Right? Maybe you get out a piece of paper and a pen. What I would challenge you right now is, what are some ways you could practice what you’re doing better? What are some things you could be doing to be better prepared so there are no surprises? Finally, if you want your most valuable list, make a list right now of the ways you could over-deliver to get a standing ovation in whatever it is you do.
If you do that, I’m telling you, the promotions, the job changes, you’re going to get the job you want and live the life you want, if you just do those three things. That was the message I had for you and I couldn’t have given the message if you didn’t write in to firstname.lastname@example.org and give me the idea. But I hope everybody gets some value from that and ultimately I hope it helps you to go Into the Roar.