I think I'm a pretty good presenter. Presenting and speaking in public is something I've loved for years. In fact, I'd probably rather speak in front of 300 people than walk up and strike a conversation with 1 stranger at a party.
Part of what makes me better is a desire to continue to improve. Every time I see another person take the stage I immediately go into learning mode - judging his or her approach, what's working, what's not, and what I want to build into my skill set. It's why I read the Presentation Zen blog, and why I rushed to buy a DVD that shares the remarkable story of another "presenter" that continues to challenge himself: Jerry Seinfeld.
The movie, Jerry Seinfeld - Comedian, has actually been on the market for around five years. It is a documentary film that follows Seinfeld as he tries to return to his stand-up comedian days. We follow him from months in small venues working on his craft, to his big moment back before crowds of thousands. The film dissects the process of writing and testing new material. We see Seinfeld's drive to keep performing again and again, even though he has nothing to prove and plenty of money to burn. In driving after midnight in hopes that a club is still open, Seinfeld says, "I could be in Bora Bora snorkeling right now." But he presses on.
The movie is also fascinating in that it shows how Seinfeld continues to learn from other comedians. In the bar between acts, he pulls insights from Colin Quinn, Robert Klein, and Bill Cosby. Despite his success, Seinfeld isn't too proud to admit that he is struggling and he even bombs in front of the crowd (and cameras) a few times.
There's a ton to learn from this 82 minute movie, and each person will take away different lessons. For me, it's a great reminder that even though I have skills and success, I must push myself to perfect my craft. I must remember that each performance is a fresh start, a new audience and another challenge. Kudos to Jerry Seinfeld for opening up his ego to criticism. By challenging himself in this way he improved, and so do we.