Find the extraordinary in the ordinary

My friend, Lance Miller is an award-winning public speaker and trainer. He graduated from Michigan State University with a Degree in Food Systems, Economics and Management. Lance has an extensive background in business and is a philanthropist who has worked in numerous humanitarian causes around the world.

Lance Miller
Lance Miller

In 2005, Lance won the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. Today, he is regularly invited to speak at events around the world. He is always engaging and always insightful. You can learn more about Lance here.

In a recent newsletter to his readers, Lance shared an important message and one which I often think about: How can we create meaningful messages for our audiences?

Often we see speakers who recount amazing tales of adventure or discovery or adversity overcome, and we think there is no way that we have anything remotely as interesting to share about ourselves. In fact, that’s not the case. You can create a powerful message based on the most ordinary of experiences.

In the article below, Lance shares what he considers the key to creating a message that will make an impact. He also shares three ideas to help you spark your creativity. (Hint: You don’t even have to leave home.)


Create your message

by Lance Miller

When I first started speaking I did not know where to find messages for my speeches. Most speakers I coach today are caught in the same conundrum.

I used to wish I had endured some horrendous near death tragedy so I could share my story of triumphing over the ultimate adversity! Unfortunately, I had no such tragedies in my life.

I have learned that the best messages are simple. The best messages share lessons that anyone can apply to improve their life. The trick is to find the extraordinary in the ordinary situations of life.

I used to drill myself on this concept.

  • I would be stuck in traffic and think: “Do a speech on this traffic.”
  • I would walk by some stairs and think: “Do a speech on those stairs.”
  • I would be washing dishes and think: “Do a speech on washing dishes.”

I practiced and practiced finding simple universal messages that applied to life. Each time I worked to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

I soon discovered that what I was really doing was reigniting my creativity. I was creating my own significance of the world before me, rather than having the world create it for me.

Today, I see messages in everything! But this did not happen overnight. It was a process of learning to create again.

If you need to reignite your creativity, here are three suggestions:

1.  Go to your pantry, close your eyes, reach inside and grab something. Whatever you grabbed, create a speech about what is extraordinary about that item and how it applies to life.

2.  Next time you have a negative emotion like, frustration, anger, hopelessness, create a speech about what is extraordinary about that situation and how it applies to life.

3.  Take a normal daily activity, like getting up in the morning, making coffee, doing your laundry and create a speech about what is extraordinary about that and how it applies to life.

You don’t have to die to have a good message. You just have to create one!

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4 Replies to “Find the extraordinary in the ordinary”

  1. Thank you for posting this. I remembered this edition of Lance’s newsletter but could not find it anywhere else.

    I was looking for it because the #TMTweetChat topic this week is “Find Speeches Anywhere.”

    I’m overwhelmed with speech ideas so I’m always surprised when someone says that they don’t have anything to speak about. Perhaps it’s difficulty matching the topic to a Toastmasters skills speech, or specific speaking occasion.

    1. Thanks, Gretchen. I think part of the problem resides in the fact that we see so many “big” stories on TV and in social media that we tell ourselves that ours don’t match up. But nothing could be further from the truth.

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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