coaching, speaking

How to be a Speaker with No Speeches

Be careful what you wish for!

When I decided to become a professional speaker my plan was to fly around the country and speak about…I didn’t know…. whatever was on my mind! I told my coach about my new goal and he said “That’s a fairy tale. Lisa, when are you going to get real?” And I thought coaches were supposed to be unconditionally supportive… guess not! In his defense, he didn’t know me very well… First off, I just can’t bear being told I can’t do something. In fact, once I’m told I can’t, I must (think of the implications)! Next fairytales not being true…. he had just challenged my “paradigm” (new biz word) and I wasn’t going for a shift.

And so I flew around the country and spoke about whatever was on my mind. Truth be told, many times at 5am I arose to prepare a speech and found: nothing on my mind… but blind fear! No one booked “Blind Fear” (not a bad title) so I just had to remember what I was thinking… when I could think.

Now you might be wondering how I got booked as a speaker with no speeches?

I had great titles!

In fact when I applied to my first speaker’s bureau I supplied them with 50 titles! Yes 50! I neglected to mention I had no speeches. They asked for my titles. I wouldn’t lie…

So, an unsuspecting organization would read one of my sizzling titles and book me… and I with consummate unprofessionalism would say to myself “What does that title mean?” A popular title was the intriguing “The myth of Procrastination”. Hmmm…what was the myth?

Well, let’s see… when I lived in Italy no one procrastinated (not that anyone did much besides nap and eat). And there was no word for procrastination (that I knew of). Now, that could have been because my Italian was lacking… I pull out my “Visual Diary” paintings from my two years in Florence and do an illustrated presentation with giant blow ups of oil paintings, of me facing the elements in Italy (men, unavailability of laundry mats etc.) and learning how to ride the wave of sloth Italian style (“Sloth Italian Style!” -a potential good title) with a comic book I drew as a “handout” (a speaker “must-have”) to drive my points home (important speaker skill). And thus I taught Corporate America how the Italians get things done (no, not without delay)…but without procrastination!

And so it went. Now, you are asking… so what’s the point?

Well, since I wrote more speeches than I could count (all on in the morning of the day of the speech, none of which I could read later, since they were all hand written, as I had never learned to type) I learned to…write speeches.

My speaking career? One day lying on a plastic bench at 3am in an airport in St. Louis, shivering and hungry, with my pocketbook for a pillow, and an umbrella over my head for privacy, waiting for yet another connecting flight after my last flight didn’t connect, I said “Lisa, When are you going to get real? Why would anyone want to fly around the country and speak about whatever was on their mind?” “STAY HOME AND DO IT!”

And that’s just what I did. I stayed home warm and well fed on the phone in a comfy chair and….helped speakers write their speeches!

I learned to type (and even email). I still get to make up cool titles (for other people). And whenever I pass the airport I raise my fist (think Scarlett O’Hara with the sun blazing above Tara) and with great gusto I say “I’m not flying! I will never be homeless again!”

The lesson here?

Fairy tales do come true….but maybe not exactly as planned!