Easily the most common and frustrating question I get challenged with once building my success is, “How long have you been training speakers?”. Well, the simplest and maybe less politically-correct answer would be – my whole f^cking career!
But the difference with me is, I didn’t start as a great speaker.
In March 2003 I was sitting firmly in my comfort zone. As the General Manager of a family owned recruitment business turning over several million dollars, I was passionate about never having to speak in public, in front of a room, and had grown skilled at positioning my team to speak in my place.
As a complete introvert I had also become incredibly adept at helping drive growth in member-based organisations, always claiming the registration desk so that by the time I walked into any room I had familiar faces to say hello to, without anyone ever realising my worst nightmare was standing in a room full of people, whether I knew anyone or not.
Until this one evening, when as a member of the regional committee for the Australian Institute of Management I was very happily manning the registration desk with my 2IC from our business by my side as we got ready for the event to launch the management excellence awards. The Chair of the Committee walked over and mentioned that the guest speaker had missed her flight from Sydney and as I was looking at him wondering why on Earth he felt the need to tell me, his next words terrified me – that as the only woman on the committee I would need to speak to launch the awards.
Caught between horror and obligation, obligation won to the absolute hysterical delight of my team member manning the desk as I escaped to try and work out just what I was going to say. In the 10 minutes I had to get ready I didn’t have time to think, literally, and all I could do was to relate a story about Jeff Morgan and Andrew Banks whom I had worked with earlier in my career.
As I raced back into the room, I realised that if I spoke to a story about suits from the city I would lose the very proudly regional crowd and literally as I was brought onto stage I decided to layer it up with examples of who our everyday heroes were.
As I came off the stage the National Organisation asked me to provide a transcript to load onto their website, and amongst huge success and congratulations for such a great speech, by the time I left that evening I had 3 requests to speak at other events.
And I was like the shy, quiet, 15 year old who discovers crack cocaine. I spoke at anything, for anyone, at any time – always building on my success.
Until months later when I realised the media was starting to come to us for comments – and not just on recruitment and jobs. Then I realised that every time I spoke our business activity lifted. And then that if I had my (superb) consulting team in the room when I spoke then our business activity didn’t just lift – it spiked.
And I realised I had to take this ‘thing’, speaking, seriously.
And I invested tens of thousands of dollars in education, and training and learning across Australia. Not just speaking, but facilitation, workshops, communication, mindset, negotiation, and so much more. And every single time I came back from more learning, I would implement it, relentlessly, moulding it to suit what we were doing and training the people around me in how to do it as well.
A skill that I now realise I have taken a little bit for granted; skills that I have used:
• To pitch for and secure millions of dollars in work
• To negotiate more than 20 Enterprise Agreements, successfully
• To coach people from the CSuite to the Wrecking Yard to communicate more effectively
• To drive cultural shift through articulating vision, building engagement and accelerating buy-in
• To lift the profile and engagement of organisations simply because I had the skills and the time
• To immerse myself in community organisations where I had a forum to simply share knowledge
• To prepare for blind tender panel assessments, interviews and use those same skills to win
• To negotiate when my life, my future, and that of people surrounding me, depended on it
• To create, facilitate, and MC a startling array of events, and to step that up to keynote speaking
And so much more over 20 years career success.
And it was the response to the story I opened with, when people in that audience were stunned I was an introvert because they perceive me to be such an exceptional speaker and presenter that made me realise I have taken my skills and success for granted. Simply because they have become a part of me, no longer something I need to consciously think about but am eternally grateful to hold.
So when I look at the dense landscape that is occupied by speaker trainers, a world typified by high pressure sales events, promises of celebrity association, and extreme hype, I realise my idea to see if my approach based on extensive experience, just may work was the right move to make.
Because I have invested heavily in my own education and every time would implement it, test it, to tweak it, relentlessly in my real-world environment which at that time was a multi-million dollar business that stepped up to grow from $4.2M to $22.4M in just 15 months, where those skills were stretched, honed, and challenged every single day, and have been ever since.
And I first started building SpeakableYOU as unmissable in 2015, before being diverted to an all-consuming project. I came back to building it almost 18 months ago, slowly building it, testing it, challenging it, putting it through all sorts of environments, and listening intently to every single piece of feedback.
And only when more than 60 people had been through the pilot programs did I start to think maybe I really did have something. Only then did I start to believe that after an entire career built on my willingness to invest in my education, to implement it, relentlessly, and then more than 15 years later deconstruct it into something that would make a difference to the world of the people who now choose to invest in themselves, that I realised just why it works.
Because it is real world experience. Backed by intensive education. Deconstructed to give you the skills you need, in your real world that ensure you are building your own success.