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Why is it so hard to find a great speaker for university graduation or a company event?

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Posted 4th December 2013 at 02:26 PM by banwork

Last year I visited my brother for his Ph.D. graduation. My brother obviously had a lot of graduations before that and I think the last one I went to was his fifth grade graduation. As the older brother, whenever my brother was graduating, I had usually been there and done that already and was doing something else. For his high school graduation, I was away at college. For his bachelor's degree, Iwas a police officer working as many hours as I could get my hands on. For his masters graduation, I was a supervisor at the census working lots of overtime. For his Ph.D. graduation, I now had a wife, a home, and my own business. The difference this time was that our parents had went to all of our previous graduations. This time they couldn't make it. Dad was terminally ill and Mom had to stay at home with him. They felt awful they couldn't go and I promised my brother I would make sure to go to this graduation for them and for him.

As I prepared to see him walk for the first and probably last time, the graduation speaker came up. She gave the impression she was a good person and had spent a lot of time preparing her speech. I was surprised the school had chosen to have someone speak that was currently working at the degree my brother was now finished with. She spoke about how excited she would be to walk up on the stage next year. Her speech left me feeling disappointed because it did not provide anything of value to me. Given that thousands of people had given her a few precious minutes of their life and that's how she chose to use them, I felt like there was a great opportunity that we all had missed out on. I remembered having some impressive graduation speakers in the past that either gave good speeches or at least made me laugh. Most recently the speaker at my wife's law school graduation did both. Since I don't remember the speaker at my master's graduation, I guess you can fill in the details.

The question I asked was how such a prestigious institution that could grant my brother a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering could not take the time to land a speaker that would make a speech that would leave the audience feeling good about themselves and therefore the university? I told my brother that I could have made more out of that kind of opportunity. The question I ask now seven months later is why I was not up there to begin with and how could I change that? At 29, I have already had a respectable number of opportunities to speak and I consistently felt that the crowd left a little happier than they did before I spoke.

When I was six months out of college, I got the first good chance to put my public speaking ability to the test and to put my criminal justice degree to work as a juvenile corrections officer. The seven months I spent there were as close to hell on earth as I have seen. The one bright spot happened in training when my classmates were kind enough to elect me as the class leader. As the class leader, I got to give a speech at graduation. I wrote the entire speech out and practiced it around 30 times out loud at home, in the car, and in the parking lot a few minutes before I gave it. I was nervous when I got up there with having a little short of a hundred people watching my first serious speech. My five minute speech theme was that the people in our class were leaders and we hoped to lead by example in giving the kids we supervised a chance at life. When I finished, I got a thunderous applause and a few people were crying in the audience. Several of my classmates and their families said they loved the passion I had in my speech and the hope it gave them.

Fast forward seven years. I have a wife, three dogs, a house, two companies, and the opportunity to do anything I want. I currently make online ad campaigns for clients in around thirty countries and offer free do it yourself help videos on my YouTube channel that are watched in hundreds of countries every month. Finally tonight instead of sleeping it occurred to me how I could put together the pieces to solve the question I asked at my brother's graduation. Why am I not giving more speeches when I know people love hearing me speak? Even my YouTube videos fired from the hip on what many consider boring topics have been watched for over a year and half in the last month. What could I do with another live crowd at a memorable event? Why do I deserve the chance to speak at a graduation or memorable event in the future? Here's the speech I might have given at my brother's graduation.

"Thank you for giving me the honor of listening to me for a few minutes today. With each of you having more opportunities than ever to be playing call of duty or moving pieces of candy around on your iPhone, I will do my best to make our time together today meaningful. Each of you graduating today has devoted a significant portion of your life to being where you are right now. I feel like that earns you the right to look in the mirror before you go to bed tonight and smile. With your work on this degree complete, you have the chance to choose what you want to do next. Many of you have already chosen and I am sure if any of you are like me, you have a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds. For those that do, I hope I can help a shed a little light on what the future holds. When I graduated with my bachelor's in criminal justice from the university of South Carolina, I was afraid of a future that might be boring and devoid of the life I had discovered in college. I was overwhelmed by all of the choices I could make and disappointed with the lack of faith any established organization seemed to have in me. My applications to jobs got rejected one after another. The six months after I graduated were one of the most frustrating times of my entire life.

After being a police officer, moving home with my parents, and graduating with my masters degree from the university of south Florida six years later, I felt completely different. Many of you today may already feel how I felt the second time I graduated and I hope I can explain to the people that don't what the difference was. When I was twenty-one, I was living for myself. The vast majority of my thoughts were consumed with what I liked to do, what I wanted to do, and why I liked doing what I enjoyed doing. I often focused on my problems such as playing too many video games and drinking too much. I rarely thought about why I was here, how I could love the people in my life, and what I could be doing that would make a difference. When I was twenty-six, engaged, and a new business owner with the opportunity to be whatever I wanted, I thought a lot more about what other people needed, how I could help them, and why I had been placed on this earth. The more I thought about the people I loved and the people I could help, the better I felt about the future.

If you will have faith in me for a minute to share with me the experience that opened my eyes the most, you might leave here today feeling a little happier than when you came. To open your eyes first requires closing them. If you would please close your eyes along with me for a second, we can experience this together. With our eyes closed, we have the ability to picture what we choose instead of what the world shows us. If you could picture a place that has a spiritual meaning to you such as your church, mosque, synagogue, football stadium, or anywhere else that could hold an event. This event we are preparing for is a sad one. There are people you know crying and sitting with the thousand yard stare. Your turn to walk up to the coffin has come. You look inside to see who has passed on. There staring back up at you is the same face you will see in the mirror tonight. You are at your own funeral. As your eyes widen in surprise, you turn around to look back at the people in attendance. You see that all of the people there are the people that love you and that enjoyed spending time with you. You also see that they are all different from the people that welcomed you into this world when you were born. When you were born, you had no choice about the people that were there to see you step into this world. I hope many of you were blessed to be welcomed in by a large crowd of loving family and friends. I know that many of you only had one or two people that loved you when you were born and some of you have already lost those few people you started with.

I have good news for you and you can open your eyes now to see it. The difference between your birth and your funeral is why this life is worth living. The difference is choosing to love the people in your life. You had no choice about being born and no choice about the people that welcomed you into this world. You do have a choice about the people that say goodbye to you. You can choose how many people will be there with you at the end. You can do this by loving the people that are here with you now, having faith in them, and inspiring them to do the same. Every choice you make today and each day that follows will contribute to the one masterpiece we all compose called life. You know where you have been and there is no doubt about where we are all going. The only room for choice is in how you get there and what kind of party people throw for you when you leave. Whether you already knew this before you got here or you are hearing it the first time, I hope you have a chance today to thank all of the people here in the audience that have chosen to be at this happy occasion with you. They love you and I hope you know how much they do. Thank you."
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