Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
“See every situation as a BLOT i.e. everything that comes your way is either a Blessing, Lesson, Opportunity, or a Test.”
― Henry Agbebire
When I was invited to be the keynote speaker for The Chief’s Tea, an annual fundraising event sponsored by the Chief of Police in Trenton, MO and the Green Hills Women’s Shelter of Grundy County, I felt humbled and honored. I have spoken in front of many audiences as a teacher, a church lector, a cancer survivor but I have never had the opportunity to be a keynote speaker for a national cause.
In this case, the message of my memoir—increasing awareness about abuse– aligned with this fundraising event for the local women’s shelter. I had been in the right place at the right time when I had traveled back to Trenton, where the opening scene of my memoir takes place, for a book signing in September,2014 and received this invitation to speak.
It turned out to be a blessing, lesson, opportunity and test, as suggested in the quote:
It was a Blessing in being able to visit my friends who had become my family-away-from–my-family at a time when my children and I needed them the most. Trenton was the place where I was forced to escape my second husband for fear of physical abuse. Here is the hidden a garage (right bottom with a white car in front) in back of the Ace Hardware Store. I escaped there with my two school-aged children on that fateful day in September of 1988:
Excerpt: Chapter 1 (page 10):
I pulled into the back of the store and watched the garage door open. Carol guided us into the garage, her tall, stately presence like a beacon from a lighthouse. She wrapped us all in a warm hug, then pulled the door closed.
Safe at last.
But we were fugitives
As I calmly took this picture, a spontaneous gesture after going to the Post Office, I couldn’t help but feel deep in my bones how grateful I was to have been surrounded by caring friends who helped me escape an abusive relationship.
The realization of how far I have come from that day filled me with gratitude and joy for the life I am living now. As I hopped into the passenger seat on that sunny, warm April day, my friend Mary Sue and I drove off to visit another friend, laughing and chattering, with the wind blowing through our hair and the country music playing on the radio. Yes, I am blessed!
It was a Lesson in that I was able to hone my skill as a public speaker. Though I had presented versions of this speech, “Abuse is Not Always Black and Blue” to other audiences, it forced me to refine and polish it for a different audience which included clergy, law enforcement officials, a judge, social services personnel, health care providers and the general public.
It was an Opportunity to spread the message of my memoir to an audience who had a vested interest in domestic abuse awareness and prevention. It was also an opportunity to participate in a fundraising effort for the women’s shelter. I was also able to set up a table for book sales. I sold 11 copies and added 8 people to my email and newsletter lists.
It was a Test for me to gauge the interest in the topic and help me hone my message for future engagements. There were 125 engaged participants.
I’m happy to report that the feedback was positive and I personally feel it was a success.
The Toastmasters International offers these tips for successful speeches:
- Be Prepared: I went by the mantra I used in my teaching days,“Fill Your Head and Be Yourself”, typing out the speech and continually editing it over time. I read it through into a tape recorder, then practiced it ad lib. I wanted to strike a balance being organized and being spontaneous.
- Start Strong: I was the last of three speakers so I had the audience take a stretch break before I started. They had been sitting quietly and attentively for two and a half hours and I didn’t want to lose them. I started by sharing my feelings about my Trenton friends and telling a funny story.
- Be conversational: I wanted to speak from my heart about my personal story while making sure I stayed true to my message of finding one’s inner strength and hope. Although I had my notes in front of me, I did go “off script”on occasion.
- Speak with Passion: this was not hard to do since I do feel deeply connected to my message and passionate about sharing hope through sharing my story.
- Be Patient: I gave myself plenty of time to prepare and permission to go with the flow as the need arose.
Returning to Trenton and giving this speech was like coming full circle from deep heartache and pain to feeling empowered and transformed.
I know I have arrived. The scars of the past have given way to peace and joy. I’ve known that for a long time but standing up in front of 125 people at the Chief’s tea and sharing my story in a place that was the source of my pain was empowering.
The highlight for me in sharing my story in this public forum was knowing that I was sharing my hope. It may be just enough for someone else to find their own pathway to freedom from abuse. After the speech, a woman from the audience approached me and said,
“You have told my story, I need to buy your book.”
Marketing Made Easy…
Speaking of marketing, sometimes opportunities really do fall in your lap. Let me explain.
On the first leg of my flight back home from Kansas City to Chicago, I sat amidst the University of Albany(NY) Men’s and Women’s Volleyball Teams. They had won their tournament and, as you can imagine, were pretty hyped up. All that entertainment and energy in one tiny aircraft and I’m right in the middle of the men’s team. Some were passed out from the previous night of drinking but others were quite lively. That would be the men who engaged all those around them in conversations and one-liners. When they found out I was a writer, they asked me for my business card and I was able to practice my elevator pitch. I passed out several cards by request. When the flight attendant came around to serve refreshments, they told her I was a writer. She asked for my card, told me she was going to buy my book and agreed to do a review. Oh, and the team named me their honorary coach and invited me to their dance party as we waited for our flight back to Albany.(The dance party didn’t happen as they tired themselves out on the plane!)
As I said in the beginning, have memoir will travel and as long as I am on this journey, it makes sense to enjoy the ride!
How about you? Where has your book taken you? I’d love to hear about your experience with public speaking.
Please leave your comments below~
ANNOUNCEMENT: Congratulations to Sherrey Meyer for being the winner of Elaine Mansfield’s memoir, Leaning Into Love: A Spiritual Guide Through Grief!
Monday, 05/04/15: “Overcoming Childhood Neglect and Abandonment: An Interview with Memoir Author Heather Siegel”
Heather is the author of the newly released memoir, Out From the Underground.
Reminder: Today is the day my first newsletter is published! I’m excited to share more of my story, with memoir musings and Max (our Golden Retriever)Moments. The newsletter sign-up is on the right sidebar if you are interested and you can unsubscribe anytime. I hope you’ll consider joining me!