I worked for a number of years for a guy who taught me a lot about trees, about people, and about public speaking. He once told me there are three speeches; the one you prepare, the one you give, and the one you wish you would have given.
I was recent asked to attend an Arbor Day program. Okay, no big deal. I was then told as many as 1,200 people may attend. Okay, I’m a little nervous but rarely do these events draw that many people. I usually just jot some notes when I get there, but for a large number of people, I prepare a speech. I even got some highlights from the city forester.
Come the morning of the event the people started showing up and just kept showing up and showing up and showing up. 1,300 people signed in and they estimate a few hundred more didn’t. Okay, now I’m nervous – really nervous.
The Mayor started talking and I realized he was giving the details of Arbor Day. That’s okay but it was also the first half of my speech. I crossed out the first half my speech and started to sweat a little. The City forester spoke next. What did he talk about? All the highlights he has given me about the cities program – that was the second half of my speech. Okay, now I’m sweating – a lot.
While I’m crossing out the second half of my speech there is a whisper in my ear asking if I could stretch my speech to double the time I was asked to talk. Seems like the ceremonial tree hadn’t arrived. Stretch it out? I don’t even have a talk!! “Yeah, sure, no problem,” was my ‘official’ answer.
Now, it was my turn. Walking to the podium, looking out at the crowd, I wondered what I was going to say.
I started talking about a tree planting we had done the day before with first and second graders and how planting a tree just might bring out the kid in all of us. To be honest about it I really don’t remember what I said but it must have been okay. I had to stop four times while the audience applauded. I wish I had taped that speech.
So, there are three speeches:
The one you prepare: it was a good speech.
The one you give: I guess it was a pretty good one.
The one you wish you would have given: that would have been the one I prepared.