About me and Speak Schmeak



I've been a performer or public speaker for pretty much my entire life.

As a child, whenever family friends would come for a visit, I would gather the kids together and we would present a play or performance of some sort. When I posed for pictures, I always did a "glamor" pose; even at a young age, I was ready for my close-up.

I got my first lead role in sixth grade, playing a hip Santa who called everything "groovy" (hey, this was the 70's) in the class Christmas production.

Sealing my love of theater was winning the role of Emily in our junior high production of "Our Town." Boy, did I love getting on that stage. My mom still tells me how I was so convincing, I made her cry (if you don't know the play, it's got some pretty sad moments). That's a mom for ya. Hello, I was twelve.

I'd like to think I was a brilliant actor, but I was really just average.

In high school, I joined the speech team. I have a strong (and somewhat unhealthy) competitive streak, so competing as a speaker forced me to learn and to improve my skills in order to meet my perfectionist goals. I loved competing on the speech team, but left public school in my junior year for a private school that didn't offer one.

However, my new school did offer music and theater like I had never experienced before. I snagged lead roles in my last two years of high school, in musicals. I loved singing, too, but again, just average talent. I enjoyed it enough to join all the school performance groups and even create a barbershop quartet with friends, which performed at various school events.

When I chose to study theater in college, I quickly discovered that "average" wasn't going to cut it. After a grueling freshman year where I learned that just about everyone was a better actor than I was, I switched to costume design as my emphasis.

A few years after graduation (and missing school terribly), I began my application to grad school in order to continue my theater education. But when I sent my application essay to three of my former professors to gain their recommendations, one of them snapped me back to reality.

She told me, "I don't feel right giving you a recommendation; I don't think your heart is really in this."

I was devastated. For about two days. Then I realized that she was right! I wasn't really that interested in pursuing theater as my career. I studied the grad school catalog some more, and found the program that would change the direction of my life.

I entered the Confluent Education masters program at UCSB in 1990 (the program has since closed), and my focus shifted to education, training and advocacy.

For the next fifteen years, I worked in nonprofit organizations with women and children, providing program and curriculum design and direction, community outreach, small and large group facilitation, training and education, counseling, advocacy and well, if you've ever worked in social services, you know what I mean when I say "everything else." My theatrical background came in especially handy when providing workshops to children and teens - it helps to be fearless when standing in front of 30 skeptical high school students. (Read my post about why you need to get real world experience as a speaker.)

I co-founded a nonprofit organization in 1997, where I was able to put into practice all of my passion for creating programs, organizing, visioning, advocacy, public speaking, and leadership. Unfortunately, running a nonprofit also requires fundraising, which was never my thing. After eight years, I decided to hand off the organization to someone who could really take it to the next level - someone who had the skills and connections to bring in the kind of money that could grow the organization into something truly spectacular.

In 2004, I participated in a 14-week women's self-employment training program that inspired me to think big. One of the speakers on the opening night of class said that what had the biggest impact on her in the program was the realization that once you start a business, you can always do it again!

I had already started my jewelry business at that point, but attending this program sparked the idea of turning my passion for public speaking into a coaching gig. I was also hired by a classmate, who had heard me speak about my nonprofit, to help her improve her professional image and presentation. The light bulb went on.

What better way to combine my speaking experience, training background and education with my love of learning, teaching, speaking, writing, theater, counseling and entrepreneurship?

I hope I can convey my love of public speaking to you through this blog. My philosophy is that public speaking is fun, it's an awesome way to express yourself creatively, and that authenticity and passion for your topic are worth more than a thousand techniques.

Now let's go speak!

2 comments. Please add yours! :

Lynette Benton said...

I'm thrilled that I found your blog. I'm a very good public speaker (I also teach), and always get major kudos, for it. Problem is, I have no idea how to find P. s. gigs. Any ideas? Thanks!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Hi Lynette,

It really depends on what your topic is. Different groups will be interested in different topics, so you need to find out who your target audience is and what your objective is for speaking to them. Once you know that, you can start looking for groups, associations, meetings and conferences where your target audience hangs out.

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