The long journey home

Moving Forward Feb 2020

(Image by Bluehouse Skis from Pixabay.com)

“A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home”.

(Matthew 13:57)

There’s an area I’ve had trouble making speaking inroads since I’ve been on my Walk into the Future journey—my hometown.

Never thought my hometown would be the toughest place for me to engage, mentor and help others but it has proven to be a tough place to get invites.  The passage above is my reminder that I’m not the only one to struggle to get a message to people who know me—better folks have struggled with this same dynamic, so I guess I’m keeping great company!  It would have been easy to just give up and focus my energy into more productive environments but that would have been the simple way for me to proceed.

Perseverance requires additional tactics to reach life and professional goals—so I decided to persevere and keep moving forward on this pursuit.

Finally got the invite to speak during the MLK 2020 weekend at the MLK Banquet as the Keynote Speaker!  So, I went from seeking an opportunity in my hometown to having the honor of delivering an important message at the premier event of the weekend—no pressure! 😊

My goal when speaking is always to move the crowd.  People want to be entertained, laugh a bit and take something tangible away from these events.  The theme of the weekend was:  Progression not Regression.

Struggled a bit conducting research for the event since it was open to everyone in the community.  Different demographics, backgrounds, and denominations so I couldn’t go into the Keynote with a complete understanding of who would attend.  This freaked me out for a bit and then I decided to trust my process for building presentations—one slide at a time.

Looked at previous presentations and blog articles to see if I already had something to fit the theme of the weekend.  Nothing matched completely but I recently completed a blog article centered around positive energy in daily interactions.  Decided to use positive energy as the progression and negative energy as regression during my speech.

Dr. King’s 1963 I Have a Dream speech was future focused and still relevant in 2020.  Leveraged this information to continue to build the foundation of my presentation.  Didn’t get deep into Dr. King’s speech but wanted to use it to engage the audience since it was an MLK event.

Introduced the concept of self-awareness to help audience members get a more personal appreciation of progression and regression.  Didn’t launch a deep dive on self-awareness but wanted the audience to understand how everyone can control progression and/or regression in their lives.  Self-awareness helps eliminate roadblocks, generates an Irie (positive) mindset and thoughts to create positive outcomes.

Dr. King’s dream is still alive and believe everyone in attendance was able to discover how they can enhance progression in the community.  Really wanted them to walk out of my Keynote and seek ways to make a difference.  I left them with three questions to help seal the theme, Progression Not Regression:

  • What can you do?
  • Who can you serve?
  • What’s stopping you?

The audience response was tremendous during my entire time with them.  I feed off audience energy and participation—they brought their ‘A’ game and I didn’t want to disappoint since I’ve been trying to get on the hometown stage for years.  Extremely happy for the opportunity and proud of the effort to Keynote this amazing event.

Full disclosure had several aunts, cousins, childhood friends, teachers and my mom in the audience.  Nothing like your mom watching you work a room! 😊  Things happen for a reason and I enjoyed my time with the group.  Feedback has been great so far so hoping I’m going to receive requests to come back and move the crowd again.

Side note:  our high school librarian (retired) was in attendance.  I made a point to acknowledge her during my Keynote because she allowed me to spend most of my free time in the library with her during my high school years.  I was in there so much she let me check out books to other students like I was an employee.  This is where I gained a love for books and reading which eventually led to me pursuing a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology years later.  Small things lead to big results!  She said all my aggravation was well worth it, now! 😊

How do you ensure positive energy (progression) in your daily interactions?  What techniques do you use to combat potential negative energy (regression)?

How will you celebrate Black History month?  Thanks!

Thanks to the Hamilton County MLK committee for putting me on!

“Home is where one starts from”.

(T.S. Eliot)

MLK 2020

 (MLK 2020 Keynote, Jasper, FL.)

 

 

 

Master the art of public speaking

auditorium benches chairs class
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking.  Number two is death. Death is number two.  Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy”.

(Jerry Seinfeld)

Public speaking is difficult, public speaking is scary, public speaking is not my strong skill.

I hear these and similar things daily when talking with people about public speaking. I’m sure I had similar thoughts when I started my journey standing in front of people to speak.  The good thing about the fear of public speaking is all your fears can be overcome.  Trust me, if I can get over the fear of standing in front of people and talking, everyone can.

My first exposure to public speaking came as part of my instructor role when I was in the Air Force.  My actual job knowledge (data analyst) was needed to train the next generation of Air Force data analyst.  I was forced to come out of my natural introvert shell and learn how to engage a room full of students who depended on me to help them grow professionally.  No pressure, huh?

“Best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you’re talking about”.

(Michael H. Mescon)

I learned the more I practice the less nervous I am when I stand in front of groups.  Decided to always err on the side of overpreparation as oppose to being underprepared for speaking engagements.  I constantly review notes, transitions and potential questions I may receive during every speaking engagement.

I view anticipating questions, lulls and technical difficulties as war games.  I find it easier to overcome these things by acknowledging they can pop up at any point.  This additional groundwork helps me get comfortable before and during my speaking engagement.  I still get nervous but know I can handle the task because of my preparation.

Researching the organization and people you’re speaking to helps you learn more about the audience so a tailored approach can be taken.  This helps when incorporating examples and stories into a speech.  Knowledge of the organization and audience helps generate talking points that fit so you can connect with them.  I also target specific audience members based on my research.  A quick LinkedIn search can provide an inside nugget I can use to connect with an audience member and seems to put others at ease because I took the time to learn more about them.  This simple rapport building technique can be leveraged to help alleviate anxiety as well.

The ability to read the room is another critical component for public speakers.  There will be times when you will need to adjust to match the emotions, reactions and body language of your audience.  I go into every speaking engagement with a plan of action but because of practice, anticipation and knowledge of the group, I’m able to adjust on the fly (if needed).

I don’t put a lot of written content on slides to avoid limiting myself without a way to pivot if needed.  I started incorporating key words and pictures into my presentations to focus attention back to me—the presenter.  This always provides me with a pivot channel since I’m not tied to slide verbiage.  The key words and/or pictures are used to guide me through the presentation.  Practice provides the foundation to make this process work when standing in front of an audience.

Nonverbal communication can make or break your presentation.  I make a point not to carry anything in my hands (pen/paper/etc.) except the audiovisual clicker.  I try to put the clicker down until I need it to transition to the next slide.  Carrying objects can distract your audience and I’ve seen these things distract the presenter as well.

Eye contact with audience members helps convey confidence and credibility as a subject matter expert.  Speaking rate, pitch and effective use of pauses can help keep the audience members engaged and wanting to hear more from the speaker.  I learned the benefits of audience engagement during my speaking roles in the Air Force and continue to add more tools to my speaking toolkit daily.  Don’t be afraid to move around when speaking—this really conveys confidence but should be done with purpose.  Too much moving looks like you’re trying to get away from them. 😊

These are a few things I’ve used to help eliminate speaking anxiety.  Please note, I still get nervous, but I use my nerves to help fuel my public speaking.  The one thing I ensure happens when speaking is to have fun.  Might as well enjoy myself while I’m standing in front of a group—having fun seems to counteract anxiety and I’m able to press forward.  Try it the next time you must speak in public!

    • FYI: Don’t forget the impact Walk up Music can have on public speaking:

https://walkintothefuture.blog/2018/11/22/walk-up-music

What techniques do you use to overcome speaking anxiety?  How do you prepare for big speaking roles in your work environment?

Thanks for walking with me!

“Speech is power:  speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel”.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

TCC presentation