Truth be told, I never set out to be a speaker. Others will tell you the same, as I am sure public speaking can terrify even the bravest of people. Even the publication of my first book in 2011 happened quite by accident.
I remember browsing the internet one Saturday morning and an innocent click of my mouse on a social media ad, led me to realize that that there was a way to compile my previous magazine contributions all in one place as a keepsake.
This was my first introduction to self-publishing.
My first book Thinking out Loud was created with Lulu.com and I was assigned an account coordinator who guided me every step of the way. I ordered a couple hundred prints initially, since it was really meant to be just a hobby (as I had a day job back then).
I was on my way to a hair boutique on my lunch hour when a very nice lady introduced me to the idea of having a launch. To be honest, the 2011 version of myself did not want all of that fanfare. I was a semi-introvert and though I’d done speaking engagements and hosted small, but fun and engaging company events, I was very reluctant.
“Yes, do it girl, even if it’s only for a few close friends and family! They would spread the word about your book. That’s how I launched my own business without ever having to advertise. Now I operate strictly on referrals – all these years later.”
Lauren was so excited and proud that I was a local author, she placed an order for a book the very first time I met her! Within days of receiving the delivery from FedEx, I began texting friends and former co-workers and dropping off deliveries.
Walking back to the office that day all those years ago, I thought about the idea of a book launch and how I could afford this at the last minute (esp with all my other loans and commitments).
My phone rang and it was a friend from another branch. I sorta threw the idea out to having it at her place and to my great surprise she said yes!
“Are you sure you want to allow strangers into your home?” I said to her.
I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that she was willing to accommodate me and my guests at her private sanctuary. So I got to planning, creating and researching and I had THE most beautiful intimate Christmas themed book launch (party).
That was my first of many magical affairs as an entrepreneur! You can say Saturday 17th December 2011 was the first day of the beginning of my journey.
Lauren was right.
The feedback kept coming in and after the launch friends got them as gifts. Everyone had a jolly good time and I realized something else too: I loved entertaining! (Others even noticed it and thought it was my home – even the owner! lol)
My cousin in the States ordered a few copies via Amazon as presents and one day I was sitting at my cubicle and opened the loveliest email from the sister of someone she gifted. This person was close to retirement and I was truly blown away by what I read.
The rest of the copies were sold to co-workers and acquaintances I met at the gym, at networking events – even at the supermarket! I remember coming home one night and told my mum who greeted me at the door that I sold 4 copies that day!
I was slowly becoming a lean-mean-selling machine! (lol). I couldn’t even believe what was happening. Not only could I now pay off my credit card, but I was influencing change! Not only in my little sphere, but around the world starting with the first blog.
I created a format that guests enjoyed and it lasted well into the night as everyone went around the room sharing their very potent and private emotions about how my writing impacted them (which were the blogs + articles in the leading Sunday magazine).
Words could not express how I felt to have this first group of people gather to celebrate Me and my passion. One of my co-workers even remarked that it was like hearing my eulogy while I was still alive!
This may sound cliché, but I was struck speechless with humility and awe that this is how they really felt. I didn’t even know anyone was reading my musings that I’d email to a select few in the midnight hours (before or after work).
I began blogging in 2008 as a way of purging myself of the emotions (catharsis) experienced as a result of conforming to this self-imposed routine and struggle to co-exist and ‘survive’ in a modern world.
And that’s how the book got its name.
“It’s what everyone thinks about, but seldom discuss,” I said to a co-worker who was trying to help with the first cover (which is not the one you see here) and he said,
“Why not call it Thinking out Loud”.
Everything else just seemed to fall into place (of course not without a few hiccups and at times, anxiety and sleepless nights as with most things worthwhile).
One of my dearest friends hosted, another did a prayer, my mom spoke and I read excerpts and did a book signing. My father didn’t attend, since he hated those formalities, but he did manage to attend the local library’s appreciation ceremony for new authors.
It was held in April of the next year (2012) and though it was a trying time for all of us (since it was the early signs of his Alzheimer’s and we didn’t know) it holds special memories for me.
In fact, thanks to that fateful day I met Lauren and my friend who opened her home to me at the last minute, this first book launch set the standard for my career as an author – which I didn’t even know was in the stars, since I mentioned this all happened by chance.
Maurice Burke photography – 2011
I was gainfully employed and worked really hard to qualify myself with extra credentials that were not really a necessity for my calling in life. I thought it would open other doors and avenues for monetizing my work – which it did … much further afield.
When all is said and done, I have no regrets since my chosen field of study allows for a (secure) career which is in demand to fall back on (if you want it badly enough). What I am most glad about is that I did not expense myself further, with any more long term studying, just for the sake and hope of other doors being opened.
Back then, I wanted to acquire and have the ability to maintain what I needed to live a ‘comfortable’ life. I had no intentions (none) whatsoever of embarking on entrepreneurship (full time) – let alone public speaking.
Co-workers and friends were telling me otherwise, but I still couldn’t see it. I went kicking and screaming trying to avoid this vocation.
In fact, I still find myself wanting to escape at times. But going back to a life of rigid conformity is not my idea of living.
This is how it all started and I was guided/led towards the path I am now on.
As the years went on and I obeyed the call, many asked how they could do it too and how exactly did I do it. I never really know how to answer that question, since I just sorta winged it. It was a natural gift and continuous work in progress.
In the beginning, I didn’t study any text, video, or work closely with any motivational speaker or writer. The words just seemed to pour from my head and later, my lips. For me, it was a mode of being – though many expressed conflicting views.
With that said, I’m finally in the place to offer a few words if anyone is brave enough to follow that call and stay with it – no matter what life brings.
Here’s 5 tips I’ve ‘learnt’:
1. Research local + international subject-matter-experts you admire – both online and offline. Attend workshops, seminars, conferences, events, watch videos and participate in webinars in your industry.
Use methods that work best for you and determine what your ideal customers really need and how much they are willing to pay for your time, quality and skill.
2. Get creative and come up with your own unique concept, adding different elements to make your delivery fun, engaging and impactful. You can opt to have a pilot session to figure out what elements work best for your style and the people you best serve.
Learn to master intimate groups to determine where and how you work best as you find your natural/comfortable style of speaking and connecting with your audience.
Find your niche/specialties and method of delivery – power point, storytelling, cue cards, the use of letters on your fingertips, using a visual in the audience or your mind.
3. Decide what is your preferred mode of delivery – If you’d like to work solo, or include other speakers as part of your offering – at least in the first instance.
You may choose to work alongside those more experienced than where you are on your journey, or those who complement your offerings where there’s a symbiotic relationship.
4. Practice! You can do this with your family and close friends, or a willing test group. Find your method of gaining confidence and perfecting your craft. A friend who now owns her own school, once shared that as a child she practiced on her plants.
5. Conduct research and get feedback after each session either verbally or via a short survey. You may choose to not only photograph, but videotape each session – since results can be more impactful in this way, especially if the photographer is not given proper direction for capturing what you are aiming to showcase.
This also allows for improvements – not only in delivery and content, but how to further add value and bring sustained results to your audience/customers.
Most importantly: have faith, ensure that your ‘product’ is a good one, block out the external noise, get out of your head and make it happen – Lights, camera, action!