Experience Without a Sound

Speaker Match

Back in a day as a newbie presenter I was naturally keen to network, learn and try on my pitch with like-minded public speakers. I joined a select few among the gazillion public speaker Groups on LinkedIn, including one called SpeakerMatch.  There, I navigated to a VERY active discussion string which proffered the following for comment:

There are a million people who share YOUR story. What makes you stand out as a speaker? Why should anyone hire you? What makes you stand out? 

Many-a-speaker kindly responded by citing his or her unique and nifty stump speech; certainly worthy, each implored, of “standing out” among the rest.  I took a stab at the challenge too, pointing out my experience as a career-long HR executive, educator and leadership coach suddenly stricken with profound hearing loss. Thus inspired Perseverance to TriumphIt’s about staring down life’s most grueling set backs and being better for it on the other side. Be Inspired!

My newfound LinkedIn groupies seemed unimpressed. One commented that there are a lot of speakers already “clamoring in the perseverance space.”  I was kindly counseled, “Either make sure your perspective can cut through the clutter or try another angle.”

Advice from the experts. I asked for it.

Humble Knowledge Sharing 

It was good feedback. New at the time to the speak-for-money game, I didn’t even know there was a “perseverance space.”  But, come to think, I surely agree that Cinderella stories abound. People love an underdog.  No doubt this contributes to a saturated market of hardship-overcome happy yap in public pontifications from sea to shining sea.

A lot of content, especially the best stuff, is hardly original and nary unique.

And let’s be honest, a lot of the content, especially the best stuff, is hardly original and nary unique. We who cherish to advance great ideas on stage offer mostly reframed content of tried and true wisdom espoused across the ages by countless others before us.  Although we may fancy ourselves as knowledge creators, most of what we actually do is humble knowledge sharing.

One surefire way to recognize a pure-sprung truly unique concept is when no one else understands what you are talking about! 

Smart people are rightly suspicious of over-speak about “revolutionary new paradigms.” Yuk. Careful too about the razor-thin  distinction between a brilliant imagination and making things up. Best in breed public speakers are, of course, masters of finely-tuned flair on the stump. Unique delivery is our rightful claim to fame. But big-fat new ideas and baked-from-scratch original material?  Not so much.

Really, really, really different, you insist?  Okay, but that can be a challenge too. One surefire way to recognize a pure-sprung truly unique concept is when no one else understands what you are talking about! Most communication experts agree that common knowledge, common sense and common ground are the mainstay of great presentations.

Personal Experience

The unique part comes into play, not in the form of bold new ideas, but in applying what we preach on the soapbox in our own lives. Actual personal stories are inherently novel, and therefore, far more interesting to a discerning audience. Your sturdy facts, in-depth research and crisp sound bites may speak truth essential. But the integrity of your message, not the truth of it, is what people will remember most.

The integrity of your message, not the truth of it, is what people will remember most.

Does a student better grasp the impact of war from a brilliant history professor who waxes eloquent about the costs and number of causalities; or from a disabled veteran who had his legs blown off in the streets of Bagdad? Who’s lecture  would you rather attend?

Do What You Did

Fortunately, for we who jump to center stage, our experience shared does not have to be so dramatic. In fact, what enamors an audience most –whether about extraordinary heroics  or ordinary events– are the common emotions evoked by such testimony. Take, for example, triumph over pain.

The success of any great speaker is not when your audience walks away knowing what you know; but when they leave your lecture inspired anew to do what you did.

Triumph over difficulty is a common thread that resonates most when the presenter includes his or her unique story related to such.  What was the speaker’s lowest moment of personal despair? What exactly did the speaker do to beat the odds and triumph?  The ultimate success of a great speaker is not when your audience walks away knowing what you know; but when they leave your lecture inspired anew to do what you didThat’s the difference between a spokesperson  and a leader.

Experience that Connects

It is also why experience-by-story  trumps knowledge sharing every time.  It’s the story, not the angle,  that matters most to the audience. Not my story, but theirs’.  And the best way to connect to their infinite number of inspiring credos, is to share the reality of my own.

Oh, I know.  There will not be many in my audience who lost their hearing at the prime of their career as I did.  But almost every human on the planet knows exactly what it’s like to lose something precious.  My would-be audience doesn’t have to be deprived of a primary sense, to relate to physical, mental and spiritual anguish. They get it already.

The experience that connects us is not our angle, voice nor ears; it’s our broken hearts and our common craving to be healed. 

And of course, my potential listeners do not have to be deaf to know what it’s like to live in silent isolation from their fellows.  No. My message appeals to the many courageous who are determined to overcome, whatever the challenge or circumstance.  The  experience that connects us is not our angle, voice nor ears; it’s our broken hearts and our common craving to be healed.

Imploring My Story

Thus, in this here blog, and on the circuit, I implore my stark pain (story);  I instruct actionable behaviors on exactly what to do to persevere (content); and I give examples throughout of what I did to overcome and triumph (story).   Is my story unique? You bet. Does it stand out among the million who share the same space? Sure it does. Does my message cut through the clutter?  Absolutely.

What’s my angle?  No angle.  I refuse to dazzle by platitudes. Passionate pleas to be all you can be may entertain an audience; but it will not inspire them. But experience without a sound – now that’s inspirational stuff!

Stay tuned.

About this post:

This post was first published August 29, 2011. It has been recently revised.

17 replies
  1. Karen says:

    Brian, As always I am so proud of you. You have a gift that needs to be shared. So many of us are asleep to the simple things that have the potential to bring so much joy. You dont have to look far. Its right outside your door. I am am amazed by your strength and ability to inspire. You have faced so many challenges and you continue to shine. I have no doubt that your message now more than ever will be recieved by people who need to hear it most. You are making a difference and that must feel great. Namaste my dear cousin.

    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Cuz, you are the best! I humbly accept the “potential” aspect of your comments with great appreciation. For example, “right outside my door” at the moment are two trash bags that I need to take to the dumpster. The potential for joy as I endeavor to perform this monumental task is yet unknown; but I’m optimistic. See, I have great faith in you as well dear Cousin–your ideas, your sincerity and your love. In fact, I’m going to do my mighty best in just a few moments to make my trip to the “ash can”, as my dear Dad used to say, a special moment of reflection on this beautiful day, on what an awesome Cousin I have. Namaste indeed my dear Cuz. I love you so! You inspire!

  2. Brenda Tracanna says:

    Thank you for your continual quest to share your experiences, your perceptions, and your honesty. There is a definite uniqueness in being deaf and trying to find an outlet in the public speaking world. I think this uniqueness in conjuction with your perseverance and the ability to vocalize at times – sometimes a too ‘real’ for some people honesty – is an asset. It is your story, not their’s, that you are conveying and how people can relate to your story is key. You can only tell YOUR story.
    Your use of the word “perseverance” brings to mind Alex Scott, who you know holds a personal space in my heart and in my family’s. I don’t think in her young child mind when diagnosed with cancer, thought she was going to exploit the fact she was sick to make money. Her perseverance through adversity and sickness has raised millions and millions of dollars for childhood cancer research. God rest her little soul. Her short life was perseverance in its most pure form.
    Lastly, keep your focus on the examples you stated. Finding that beauty in the absence of sound. Finding peaceful serenity in the perils of silence. How your experience has led you to be more focused and perceptive and in tune to others’ feelings and your struggles at times on dealing with life on life’s terms and the ways you are doing so without your hearing. You teach me daily about persevering. Thank you.

    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Brenda, that’s a wonderful tribute. Of course the Alexandra Scott story resonates with millions. I know you are among her ardent supporters. And, of course, who would ever dispute that her brief shining life was inspirational beyond any form of perseverance that any and all “adults” could ever collectively muster. My new venture to speak about perseverance has already inspired me beyond anything I expected as I study the grace and courage of so many others far less fortunate and far more courageous.. Thanks for giving me pause to read about Alex today. Now that’s inspiring! So is your friendship and kind support. You make finding beauty in the absence of sound a piece of cake! Thank you.

  3. Rob Sim says:

    Brian, thanks for another great story and lesson on perserverance. I have been through a number of struggles and life challenges over the past year and your passion and perserverance are inspiring and give me hope. I like hearing positive things and taking lessons from others on how to keeping chugging on with life and how to see things in a different light. Thanks for this, Brian!!!

  4. Pattie Rydlun says:

    Brian, thank you for a wonderful blog. I lost my hearing early this summer and it turned out to be temporary. I related to your feelings of loss–wondering if I would ever hear my husband tell me he loves me, would I listen to my operas and, yes, those Broadway shows. What about the sound of a phone ringing, a door closing, a car whizzing by? I could see them but I couldn’t hear them. I, too, struggled to read people’s lips, was devastated when I realized my 4-year old grand niece was telling me a story and I didn’t even know she was talking to me. I, too, got to the point of embracing my hearing loss and decided that if this is my lot in life then make the most of it. But my story differs because at that point I began to get better. I call it my miracle. The first sound I heard was a bus passing by. It hurt my ears it was so loud. I questioned whether these sounds were always this loud. My missing hearing all the things that I so took for granted makes me cherish not just my hearing but every one of my senses. I am thankful and I am blessed! God bless you for your inspiration

    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Pattie, your story inspires me more than I can ever describe in a blog post. Thank you. I’m so glad you can hear again! Just so you know, regarding your comments here, so can I. I hear you loud and clear. Without a sound. How about that! Thank you so very much for inspiring me to keep going with my new venture as public speaker. I never imagined the positive inspiration inherent in sharing our stories in this forum. You are now a part of my ongoing journey and, as I stated, it is truly wonderful. Please stay in touch. Brian

  5. Nicole says:

    Brian-it is your empathy and ability to strike at the cord of people’s emotions that will allow you to change the lives of millions. I was touched by your story, felt a little guilty for not appreciating life but committed to slowing down and smelling the roses in all that I do moving forward. That is the mark of a great speaker-you have what it takes to produce CHANGE!!! Blessings.

    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Nicole, Coming from you, this is a high compliment indeed. I look forward to following you both literally on Twitter and LinkedIn and–more important– following your success-example demonstrated by your writings, your sensitivity, your wit and your esteemed career path. You stand as an example that I can respect and emulate moving forward. Thank you for that. Regards, Brian

  6. David Mitchell says:

    Brian, another great writing. You have so much more than just perseverance to communicate. You have a unique perspective on a variety of topics and it’s that perspective that is your “space”. I look forward to reading more.

  7. Fern Lebo says:

    Brian, well done!

    I too am a member of that group and I was seriously disheartened to read the rant from the “grammar” cop. What I found most amusing was his mis-use of “amount” in his last sentence. I wondered if it was a feeble attempt at humor, but decided he was just being a condescending twit. In any case, I love what you’ve done with it. So thanks for this.

    And I’d like to add that while it’s a differentiator to be sure, it’s not your deafness that makes you unique. It’s you–and how your story resonates with me. You sound like a real inspiration. Glad to know you.



    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Fern, your comments rock and definitely inspire me to move onward with my public speaking venture. I am honored by your feedback, truly I am. But I am most impressed with my review of your web site, especially the great writing tips. I am sure to take note and appreciate the practical application that you offer to those of us who are in the business of marketing ourselves so to speak. I liked the video intro on your home page too! One of my pains is piecing together a video spot that I can’t hear myself! A challenge to be sure; but I’m working on it. I’m glad to know you too Fern. Thanks so much for your warm regards. Cheers indeed! Brian

  8. Tom Snyders says:


    Bravo! Your story is unique, and your story does matter! You are smart enough to know how to get the audience to relate to it, and to use it to teach positive lessons.

    I am not thrilled with the tone of the SpeakerMatch discussion you referred to — and I am one of the two parties involved! I am glad that someone was able to take that discussion and turn it into a positive blog. I say again, BRAVO!



    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Hey Tom, Thanks so much. I consider it an honor to get your very kind personal feedback. One of the early discoveries as I develop my new venture is the feeling of inspiration I get when in meaningful dialogue with those who have gone there before me. Bravo to you and all the earnest contributors to a well meaning debate of minds and, most important, expressions of the heart. Bravo indeed! Brian


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