It never ceases to surprise me that, as I continue to build my writing career, I’m also exploring new avenues of communication with others. Of course I’m hoping I reach readers through my books, and some are very generous by posting reviews on websites like Amazon, Goodreads, etc. This is incredibly important on many levels, but on a personal one, it means they think I’m doing something right with my writing, or they share how they felt about the characters I’ve created. There is no higher reward for a writer!
But then there’s this blog, and it’s helping me communicate with others on a whole different level. It lets me share my thoughts on many subjects, and again, sometimes hear back from others. But I’m continually looking to expand my reach and stretch my comfort zones, which is why in addition to book tours/signings, I’ve branched out into the public speaking arena. Although my stomach still gets tied up into knots before every appearance, I know this is a good thing. Once I get started, I’m fine and I relax. I actually even enjoy the experience, because not only do I give a talk for a specific period of time on a topic pertinent to the attendees, I do a question and answer session. This allows the audience to ask me questions, and often, I ask them questions. This exchange is really important to me, and I hope, to them. The take-aways are huge for me, and gives me a chance to connect with others outside my computer and the net, on a personal level. I can watch their faces and see their reactions to my words immediately. Likewise, they glean a little more information about me, my work, how I think about certain subjects, and can see and hear me talk as well. To me, public speaking is the ultimate vehicle for connection, and I’m very present in the moment. It isn’t about what I have to say, so much as it’s about what they hear and take away from the exchange. Public speaking isn’t about the speaker; it’s about the audience, and giving them something of value they can use in their own lives.
This past Sunday I spoke for an hour to a group of female teachers who were attending a women’s retreat. As I spoke, I was watching their faces, their postures, and their body language. At several points I knew I’d touched a nerve with some of the attendees. When they dabbed at their eyes in response to a portion of my talk where I revealed some of the really difficult years I’d struggled with as a single parent living on Family Assistance while raising two children, I knew they were really listening. Those were dark days for me, but they were also days of re-connecting with my family in amazing ways. Clearly, something in my words touched some of these women, and it was evident on their faces and by the tears they shed. I have no idea why this resonated with them, because everyone has their own story and internalizes information in their own way, but I was glad to see they felt something, not just heard my words.
At other times they laughed at a comment I made, and again, this was gratifying for me to hear. I felt I was hitting my mark with my talk. Then I did something I’ve never implemented before. I had left a one page feedback sheet on each chair, and requested the attendees take a couple of moments to comment on my presentation. While I was busy signing books, my husband was in charge of dealing with the money exchange and accepting the returned feedback sheets. Because I was focused on the book signing and chatting up the ladies who’d approached me, I wasn’t paying any attention to how many were actually returning the sheets. It wasn’t until we were on our way home that I asked my husband about them. I thought we’d received maybe one or two returns, but he assured me we had received many more. He’d put my book bag in the back seat of the car, so I couldn’t access the pages until we got home, and I was thrilled to discover we’d received ten responses out of sixteen attendees! That’s an excellent return quota.
As I read through those pages, I was overwhelmed by some of the comments these ladies generously supplied. Comments like, “Your ability to overcome what you felt were obstacles and/or failures in life was inspiring”, or “Yes! I’m at that moment (just before 50) and realise that its time to look forward…”,and “Debbie’s life story of her struggles and successes has truly motivated and inspired me to persevere in some areas of my life that I have been hesitant to start due to fear of failure”, resonate and touch me deeply.
As I mentioned during my talk to these ladies, we never know whose life we touch in a positive way when we reach out beyond ourselves. By being vulnerable to and with other people, we allow them to see that we all share similarities. We are all afraid of the new and untried. We all have failures and fears. When we share of ourselves, our stories, successes, and failures, we connect in ways we hadn’t always anticipated. It sounds trite, but I honestly feel that if even one woman present last Sunday was motivated to take on a new challenge, or overcome an old one, then I’ve done more than just stand up and talk. I’d like to hope I made them think and feel. Much as I love sharing my work, and of course, selling my books, it doesn’t move me the way connecting with others does. I’m discovering that both men and women have a need to be reassured that failure, perseverance, and ultimately, success, is and can be part every human experience. We are all teachers.
If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider leaving a comment here, and sharing with your circles on social networks. Thank you! Debbie