Guest post by Rich Hopkins

The following post was written by my friend and fellow public speaker, Rich Hopkins. Rich has made it twice to the finals of the World Championship of Public Speaking, placing 3rd in 2006. This post first appeared in his blog, Speak & Deliver.

Rich Hopkins


You’re not as good as you think you are

by Rich Hopkins

You’re not as good as you think you are. The good news is you’re not as bad as you think you are, either!

Last month, I attended a fairly new Toastmasters club. They were having a ‘training night’, and showed three speeches from the 2008 World Championship of Public Speaking – the winner, LaShunda Rundles, and two others: Jock Elliott, a five-time finalist, and my own (it was my 2nd appearance in the finals).

I had only viewed that video twice, and not once in 2009. Having that much separation in time from the event, I was able to watch my speech with ‘new eyes’. I am over the sting of ‘losing’ (as if being in the Top Ten out of 25,000 worldwide should be considered losing), and have put that summer of victories and defeats into some perspective.

Despite this supposed ‘perspective’, I cringed several times watching the speech. My head was spinning with all the things I could do differently with that speech. Gestures, phrases, transitions all could have been better. That moment is past, never to be retrieved, of course. Just tortuously set in digital stone for posterity.

But after the meeting, I had four people, none of whom had met me before, separately tell me how much my speech meant to them. They espoused their own interpretations of what I offered, found value in my persistence and perspective, and appreciated the raw authenticity of the speech. None of them said I should have won, but they all got my message, which is its own victory.

Back on that August morning in 2008, I remember thinking, as the awards were being called, that I had given a great speech, a championship-winning speech. Watching the DVD, I was mentally beating myself up as I watched myself in living color and stereo sound. In fact, I was actually somewhat embarrassed to have them watch the speech. No, Rich, you’re not always as good as you think you are.

Despite my own criticism, however, the speech was a success. It didn’t take home the prize, but it affected people significantly that night, and continues to affect those who watch it on DVD. People without a rooting interest. People who aren’t ‘in the moment’ of the big contest. Just folks sitting in chairs in a church basement watching TV. No, Rich, you’re not always as bad as you think you are.

Yes, I would love to go back and fix that speech. Yes, we can always do better. And yes, we should strive to improve our speaking and presentation skills, and be open to criticism from our audience, coaches, and selves.

Take heart in this: If your message is strong, the audience will find it, even when you are less than perfect. The audience, for the most part, is not picking you apart as you speak the way you will do to yourself. They are in it for themselves, and what they can get out of you. We must always give our best, even if our best isn’t our best. As a wise coach once told me – our best speech should always be our next one.

You’re never as good as you think you are, and you’re never as bad as you think you are – but as long as you are striving to Speak & Deliver, to deliver your best message in the best way you are capable of at that moment in time, you’ll be a Champion.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International