Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lessons from (a month :-/ ) on the Speaking Circuit

Wow! I can't believe the date. It is already a month since my last post. Thankfully, this has been for a good reason. I had a very busy November speaking to a wide variety of people. Early in the month, The National Association of Collection Managers (NACM) flew me to Tampa, FL, to speak to a group that specializes in healthcare, and I spoke about how to prepare for the inevitable changes in their market, drawing on my own experience in that industry. After I returned, Right Management had me speak to their candidates in two different offices about how to stay prepared for variations in their employment. Lastly, I went to the U.S. headquarters of Siemens Healthcare to address their women's support network. (I was gratified to learn later that the meeting was opened up to all employees, and they drew their largest audience ever. I thank them all for their participation.)
Now that I am back in the saddle of cyberspace, I will have many things to write about, given the experiences of the last few weeks. However, here are a few quick hits.
  1. I was right about introducing yourself to your audience. Not that I ever doubted it, but as I wrote in my Oct. 27 blog, Forget the Grand Entrance, it's always good to get to know your audience first and to let them know you in return. Normally, I simply introduce myself to members of the audience on the day of my presentation. But the night before I was scheduled to speak in Tampa, I saw a group of people at the hotel's "happy hour," and I asked them if they were part of NACM. They were, and they welcomed me to join them. After drinks, I joined them for dinner, and in the morning I had breakfast with many of them. It made a big difference when I stood to speak to them, and it showed in the warm feedback I received.
  2. You never know where or when you will find a future audience. I spoke to a group of people who are in a job search about how to handle and conquer change, and while they were generally receptive to my message, one guy kept leaning back, obviously skeptical. "Pat, these are easy things to say, but are they really realistic," he asked. His timing was perfect, and I transitioned into my segment on predicting the future, including my own success in predicting my own job loss, thereby preparing for it by starting my own consulting practice. He joined right in after that, apparently satisfied that I was credible. Afterward, he approached me with a smile and asked if I would address his networking group for job seekers.
  3. Work your own life into your speeches, and you will get unforeseen benefits. When I started my presentation on adapting to change to the Siemens group, I paused for a moment, then said: "I had a different opening for you until 12 hours ago. My wife and I left a singing performance, turned on our cell phones, and learned that our son had his first auto accident." After a collective groan of sympathy, I assured them that he and all those involved were okay, but that the accident caused several hardships we had to address: reporting the accident to our insurance company, figuring out our transportation now that one car was out of commission, et cetera. The moment was real, and it connected them to my subject -- and me to them -- in a unique way.
It was a great, busy couple of weeks that were fulfilling for me, as I hope they were for my audiences. I do regret that they took me from you for a while, but I look forward to sharing my lessons with you.