The Unexpected – it can be good or bad

A few weeks ago, I came across a web site that had the audio of speeches from the 2006 TED Conference. TED stands for Technology, Education & Design and the organization behind it describes the conference as an “invitation only event where the world’s leading thinkers and doers gather to find inspiration.” I listened to two of the speeches – they we each by a well known person that I know quite a bit about. I really liked one speech and really disliked the other, which I expected would happen. What I didn’t expect was that each speech had an effect on me which was the complete opposite of what I expected.

The first speech I listened to was from Tony Robbins. Now I am a big fan of Tony Robbins as I have listened to several of his programs and read many of his books. Although Tony does a lot of things in his speeches that drive the Toastmaster in me crazy (such as pronouncing “nuclear” as “nuke-you-lar”), he speaks with great passion and charisma and is quite entertaining. I’ve found his programs insightful, especially in the areas of human behavior and goal setting.

So I have to say that after listening to Tony speech at TED, I was extremely disappointed. This was due to the fact that Tony spoke in a way that I would have never expected. If I were to describe the speech in one word, it be “edgy.” Tony simply did not sound like himself, it seemed like he was trying to be cooler to cater to a hipper, younger audience. He used a lot of profanity, which shocked me because in his Personal Power program, he uses phrases like “I’m mad as heck.” Not that I’m not accustomed to profanity, I hung out in high school with kids who used to listen to the likes of Andrew “Dice” Clay and 2 Live Crew. I just didn’t feel that it was necessary for this particular speech. I felt that it detracted from the speech to the point where I completely missed this message.

After listening to Tony’s speech, I researched this TED conference so I could find some clue as to why he would decide to speak that way. I came up with nothing so I looked to see who else was on the list and came across former Vice President, Al Gore.

In general, I dislike listening to politicians speak. Occasionally, someone will do an exceptional job such as Arnold Schwarzenegger at the 2004 Republican Convention or Barak Obama at the 2004 Democrat Convention. However, the majority of speeches I’ve seen or heard from Al Gore have been angry and negative (these are the ones that news programs prefer to show as it helps their ratings). So I figured his speech would be interesting.

I have to say that I was pleasantly impressed with Gore’s speech. I never thought of him as a good speaker – probably due to his close association with Bill Clinton who is an exceptional speaker. In this speech, he was articulate, used great vocal variety, was not negative at all (something that really surprised me) and used a lot of self-deprecating humor. I actually caught myself laughing out loud a couple times. The speech was about the environment and it actually inspired me.

So in summary, I expected Tony Robbins to inspire me and he surprised me by using profanity to the point where his message didn’t even register with me. I expected Al Gore’s speech to be an angry rant about how this country is messing up the environment and instead was treated to funny, yet inspiring talk. Keep in mind that the Unexpected can have a dramatic effect on your audience, and not necessarily a good one.

You can listen to both speeches at

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