002: Scott Zimmer - On the Confidence Game


I met Scott at the CSB/SJU RED talks, an Alumni Event of the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University where both Scott and I went to college - and where Scott gave an entertaining and dynamic talk. I knew I wanted to bring him onto the show and hear more about how he approaches his work!

Scott Zimmer first got into public speaking by talking with students about personal safety on behalf of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation. He quickly realized that he loved speaking in front of people - not only because it was fun (even when talking about difficult things), but because he wanted to provide tangible take aways that could really help people. Now Scott is a keynote speaker at Bridgeworks, an organization that speaks about generations in the workplace, where he brings his GenX humor, knowledge and confidence - the ingredients to handling any speaking challenge that comes your way!

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What do you feel like is the biggest challenge you face as a speaker?  

Scott talked about how as speakers, they try and be generational experts FIRST and great speakers SECOND. Compared to his coworker Kim who knows the information inside and out, Scott's challenge is to balance out the need for stats and information - which is not necessarily his strong suit - with his natural inclination to lean into the entertaining side of the content.


Your job as a speaker is to make the person who hired you look good.  

How does authenticity play into your role as a speaker when you are given content from an organization?

Scott determined early on that he was going to avoid the "cheese ball” GOOD MORNING! welcome - and honor his own unique take on the content.

What is your purpose as a speaker?  

When Scott leaves the room, he wants to know that everyone is better off for having heard that. He’s talking about something important, with a strong, tangible takeaway. Even if it’s one thing...

Great skills don't make up for clichéd content that doesn’t have meaning for our lives.  

“Sometimes I feel guilty for getting paid to do something I love so much...I grew up on a farm… that’s work!… I feel a little less guilty knowing that I really am do something that is bettering people.”  

Key speaking lessons you learned the hard way?

“Hey Scott! - You missed a belt loop.”

You gotta just own it.  

Golden nugget advice:

Know your material. 

If you know your material inside and out and are an expert on it, it doesn’t matter if someone throws you off, if you trip, if your slides don’t work (technical panic!) - you have to be able to be comfortable with the reality of what is.

It’s a confidence game. (“Preparation = Confidence”)  You put in the work so that when you walk in the room, you can handle whatever comes your way!

From Tina Fey’s book, BossyPants. She talked about the sketches on SNL… You want to make it as good as you possibly can. It tends to be the ones that aren’t perfect that really resonate with people. But at the end of the day, perfect can be boring. You want those moments that are humbling, where they audience sees you are a real person. If it isn’t perfect, it’s ok.


From Scott:

The movie Boyhood.  “Oddly moving.”  Artistically speaking - loved the unique concept — that could have backfired, but the risk paid off. “I was in a really good mood knowing I had just seen something special and pretty incredible."  Good art; good storytelling.

From Sally:

Sara Bareilles’ live version of a cover of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The YouTube video is so beautiful, as it spans the audience. Sing it out in the car, people!

(And now you know that I sing in the car. It might look like I'm just talking on the phone… but I'm really singing. Drive safely out there, people; drive safely.)


You can find more about Scott, and his work at Bridgeworks, at www.generations.com.

You can also find Bridgeworks onTwitter and Facebook.