Lessons from a Public Speaker: Living the No Pants Dream

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Public Speaking

black speedoYou know that weird dream? The one where you’re in your underpants and you need to be somewhere in a few minutes but don’t have any clothes?

So that happened to me yesterday morning. Only it wasn’t a dream.

I’m in a beautiful 5-star resort in Mexico for a speaking engagement.

I have a pre-speaking routine. It takes four hours in my hotel room: An hour of coffee and checking email, social feeds, and news. An hour of yoga (I travel with a yoga mat). An hour to shower, dress, and eat. And then an hour to check the presentation, gather gear, and get to the meeting room. In that order.

My call time to the ballroom for my talk is 8:00 am. So, I get up at 4:00 am.

Coffee and computer. All good so far.

Mexico yoga 2Hey, (says me to myself), there is a big balcony! I can do hot yoga outside! And I’m on the 4th floor and it’s dark so I can do my yoga in my Speedo! (Okay, maybe that’s too much information, but it’s important to the story.)

It was great yoga! I’m nice and sweaty after an hour. Two hours to call time. I congratulate myself for closing the balcony slider, so my room says cool.

Perhaps by now you’ve guessed where this is going.

Oh crap! The slider is locked! I’m trapped on the balcony. On the 4th floor. Of a hotel in Mexico. With a call time in two hours.


My iPhone is in the room, so I can’t call anyone.

My options as I see them:

Plan A: It’s at least a 20-foot drop to a roof garden. Perhaps I could do a “drop and roll”? But I may land in cactus or twist my ankle. Even if I do make the “Mission Impossible” move successfully, I don’t know if there is an open door down there. I may end up in a worse pickle than I’m already in.

Plan B: Take the chair and break the slider glass. That would certainly be dramatic. But it’s really thick 5-star resort glass so I reject this.

Plan C: Climb over the balcony wall and Spiderman over to the other rooms on the right or the left of me to find one that is open. I actually do this as far as several rooms, but all were shut tight. However, I realize a sweaty man in a Speedo on somebody else’s balcony could get me in deep, deep trouble. So, I choose not to go forward with this plan.

Plan D: Yell.

I choose plan D.

But it is dark and nobody is out. So I wait.

And wait.

Now I have to pee. Yep, in the flowerpot.

At this point I’ve been trapped for half an hour, after an hour of yoga. Good thing I have my Fitbit so I know the time.

Oh, somebody’s coming! A hotel employee! I yell: “HELP. I’M STUCK ON MY BALCONY!”.

The worker looks up and waves to me. Rats! He doesn’t speak English. I imagine him muttering to himself whatever “damned drunk gringo” is in Spanish.

This happens three more times. And they all wave. (Strange that).

Finally, a security guard looks up at me from four stories down.

Me: “HELP! Do you speak English!”

“Yes,” he yells back.

I explain to him that I’m stuck and what room number I’m in.

It’s now a little more than an hour to my call time. And that weird dream feels very, very real. Intellectually, know it’s not a dream. But I’m in a Speedo and cannot get to my clothes and have to be in the ballroom in about an hour.

This is the moment that I realize I had deadbolted my hotel room door. Which means security can’t get in with the normal security man key.

They need the double secret key.

Apparently, this takes time to locate.

Another 20 minutes go by with no sign of any people four stories down below me. But since I had successfully explained my predicament, I figure I’ll just wait it out.

Finally, mercifully, help arrives! They bust into my room and rescue me. I look like I’ve just finished swimming laps. I quickly explain what happened and shoo the security men away.

I have barely enough time for a very fast shower, a quick change into speaking attire, and a few bites of fruit and yogurt. A dash to the ballroom.

I arrive at 7:59. A minute early. And act as if nothing had happened.

No drama.

How to Prepare for Speaking Success

So, what's the moral of this story? Don't do yoga in just a speedo outside a hotel room!

But in all seriousness,  speakers need to be able adapt to changing circumstances. Every speaker has experienced technical difficulties, bad traffic, and other unpredictable setbacks before keynotes. Average speakers will make excuses or get flustered. But the best speakers will be prepared for the unexpected, adapt to changing circumstances, and bring their A-game come show time.

I've been speaking professionally for almost 20 years, so I've seen all kinds of setbacks. From being locked out of your room to having a walking boot on stage, I've still brought my A-game to every speech I've done.

If you want to see how I bring energy and excitement to my speeches, check out my Vimeo page for my latest keynotes. 

David Meerman Scott speaking live