Early in my speaking career, I had the privilege of appearing on the same program as Herb True, a member of the National Speakers Association's Hall of Fame.
Since most of you reading this post may never have heard of Herb, let me introduce you.
After years on the faculty of Notre Dame, Herb went full time speaking to corporate and association audiences. Herb billed himself as the "EduTainer," blending education with entertainment.
For some audiences he wore costumes to make his points. When most speakers presented without A/V, Herb was using 35mm slides...lots of them. Not word slides, but exciting, interesting pictures and graphics. On a visit to South Bend, I stopped to see Herb and saw his slide collection--literally thousands of slides, all catalogued.
Funny, informative, motivating, relevant, Herb was one of the busiest speakers in the country.
Now back to the program with Herb. Both of us were scheduled to speak to an association annual convention on a Thursday. Herb had the opening keynote; I was doing a breakout session.
The convention began Wednesday evening with an opening reception, a simulated Philadelphia block party (yes, we were meeting in Philly). While I was enjoying the Mummers and Philly cheese steaks, I noticed Herb was sitting on the floor, reporter's notepad in hand, talking with an attendee. I moved closer to hear what he was saying.
"Were you at last year's convention? What was the best idea you took home? What are you hoping to learn this year? Anything happen to you this past year that was especially good or bad? Anything that would be typical of what other members are going through? Whom do you admire most in your industry? Why? What have you learned in the past year?"
Then he would hop up, grab another attendee, sit him or her down, and go through the questioning process again.
While the rest of us were partying, Herb was mining the audience for examples, names, issues, concerns, and industry humor.
By the next morning, he had refined much of what he had mined, and gave it back to the audience as gold nuggets of industry understanding and insight. And quickly, he was one of them.
I saw Herb the next day after we both had presented. I mentioned how I had observed his interviews and complimented him on how much of the information he had incorporated into his talk.
"Yes, it's a great source of what's really on people's minds, a great way to customize. But the main reason I do it is I love to learn! If we don't learn something new every day, we can't improve."
Then right before we parted, he looked at me and asked intensely, "Lou, what did you learn today?."
After every speech, workshop, client meeting, or at the end of a day at home, Herb's question comes back to me. "What did you learn today?"