Carl Mays: Home runs spotlighted, but singles can lead to victories, too

Aug. 15, 2013 @ 11:02 PM

Have you ever noticed when brief television baseball highlights are shown, how often homeruns are in the featured video blurbs? Homeruns are exciting and exhilarating. But singles can lead to some huge victories. This came to mind when a service company CEO told me about an upcoming presentation he had to make to rather hostile board members of a client.

As we discussed the challenge he faced in presenting to a folded-arm audience sitting stiffly in their chairs, the last point I shared with him contained some words directly from my “A Strategy For Winning” book: “I may not hit a homerun every time I speak, but I’ll never allow myself to strike out. It may be a triple; it may be a double. Every now and then, it may be a single, but I guarantee I am not going to strike out as a presenter. My self-esteem, attitude, creativity and visualization are not going to allow this.”

I went on to express to him how important it is not to allow any group to tear down your confidence, your abilities, your experiences and your acquired knowledge. I recalled one time after speaking to a corporate client (and hitting a homerun), the client invited me to return. This time they also wanted to sponsor me to speak to a school system’s teachers. I’ve always appreciated teachers and have spoken to numerous education groups through the years – for in-service meetings, at conventions and other occasions.

But this particular meeting was scheduled for after a school day – and the teachers were required by the superintendent to attend. (The corporate client was a big donor and sponsor for the school system.) You can imagine how this mandatory after-school attendance went over with the teachers. How many of the 600+ teachers do you think were looking forward to attending the meeting on their own after-school time, with no pay and no continuing education credits or anything else?

As soon as they began entering the auditorium, I discerned this was primarily a hostile audience. As usual, I greeted and briefly talked with some individuals. Then when I spoke to them as a group, I focused on my message as I should, referred to my early-career teaching and coaching, and how I could relate to their challenges and time constraints, and how I appreciated their being at the meeting.

As usual, I used some personal experiences and some self-deprecating humor to exemplify presentation points. While making eye contact with everyone, I often focused on my champions and my attackers in the audience. (Attributed to Sun Tzu and made famous in “The Godfather” is the quote, “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.”

Some arms unfolded and some tight-jaws loosened. With energy I applied the “Four-S” advice: Stand up, Speak out, Shut up, Sit down, and dismissed them earlier than scheduled. I think I surprised many audience members of getting a better reception than anticipated. I would define the presentation as a single, which maybe could be stretched into a double under the circumstances.

However, it led to a huge victory when a woman told me how great my presentation was, how much it meant to her personally as well as professionally, and asked for my card. Later, I was contacted by her husband, the vice-president of a company who invited me to speak to his corporate group, which turned into multiple engagements.

One never can tell what’s going to happen when you do what you do the best you can do it, regardless of the circumstances.

— © 2013 by Carl Mays, speaker and author whose mentoring site,, is based on his book and program, “A Strategy For Winning.” E-mail to, call 436-7478 or visit