I finally went to see Avengers: Endgame this weekend. It was a powerful movie that tied up the emotional awfulness that was Avengers: Infinity War. It was not only powerful because of the emotional resonance of the story and how it honored characters I’ve been going to the movies to see for more than 10 years, but in the wisdom it imparts, as well.
Stay with me here. I’m going to share with you some lessons you can take away from the film that will make you a better speaker.
In a touching scene of the film, present-day Thor has a conversation with his mother on the day that she was killed. He is feeling sorry for himself because he feels that he has failed to be who was supposed to be. And Frigga responds, “Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be, Thor. A measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.”
To be a better speaker, an authentic speaker, you need to be you on the stage. Don’t try to imitate your speaking heroes. Don’t try to be what you think your audience, your mentor or even your mother wants you to be. Be yourself.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
In Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos snapped his fingers and half of all living things in the universe ceased to exist. But did that stop the remaining heroes from trying to fix things?
Not at all. They went after him at the beginning of Avengers: Endgame in an effort to gain back the infinity stones and bring their friends and loved ones back. When that failed, they tried to move on, but when an opportunity to try again came up, they embraced it with courage.
In the climactic ending scene, Captain America is fighting Thanos and getting clobbered. But he still kept getting up.
This is what you need to do as a speaker. Not all speeches will be winners. Not all audiences will respond the way you envisioned.
That doesn’t mean that you are a bad speaker or that your speech is necessarily bad. Don’t throw in the towel, work on getting better instead. Give another speech. Re-work the speech you have to improve it. Get more clear on your target audience so that you are speaking to the right people.
Be Willing to Be Wrong
When Dr. Banner/The Hulk goes back in time to retrieve the time stone, he is very effectively stopped by The Ancient One. Dr. Banner/The Hulk tries to reason with her, but she is convinced that if she lets him take the time stone into the future all of time will unravel. However, when she hears that Dr. Strange had given the time stone away, she re-thinks things and is willing to admit that she might be wrong.
When you are a speaker, you are seen as an expert and a leader. But this doesn’t mean that you are all-knowing or can’t make mistakes. Wise leaders are willing to admit when they get something wrong. They own up to it and move forward to right things.
Good speakers do this, as well. Sometimes your PowerPoint won’t work. Sometimes you’ll misspeak. ‘Fess up and move on.
I’m sure there are more lessons you can take away from this film. These were just the three that stood out the most to me.
Have you seen Avengers: Endgame yet? If so, what do you think you can learn from it to be a better speaker?