July 14 – 17, 2018
Dallas, Texas was warm and a bit sticky. I felt, this is my playground. For it is pretty much like home, and I love playing home. But with a big difference! Influence 2018, the premier event for professional speaking organized by the National Speakers Association was the stage.
To speak at an event with the magnitude of Influence is a dream for many emerging speakers. So, I was flabbergasted with joy to have been chosen. I was also happy to be sharing the stage with two other great and awsome humorous speakers, Kay Frances and Dave Hill, two affable and supportive characters. Working with them ahead of and during our speaking engagement was a thrill. Thank you Kay and Dave.
Even though I attended Influence 2016 and was moved then by a host of amazing and talented speakers from the pro pool, Influence 18 was also mesmerizing (well, it has to be; I spoke there! J). You really don’t listen to a speaker but a performer embodied in a speaker. You listen, you watch, you learn and you are, definitely, entertained!
I must admit that I felt like a dwarf speaker among giants. I had two choices: Act as a dwarf or challenge myself to act like a giant…even though a skinny one! If you know me, you’d probably guess what my choice was. It was an opportunity to say my say and I was not about to let it slip away, especially I had two talented speakers alongside with me. I was utterly fearless!
As is the case with breakout sessions, you always have this worry if your room will fill up, especially if your session is one of nine happening at the same time. So, roughly, 1200+ people will split throughout the sessions. Of course, there are other worries, including potential VA mishaps during the session…and there were, actually! Oh, did I mention I was the first speaker? But that never bothered me. In one Toastmasters competition season, I was the Number 1 speaker three times in a row, including the one that took me all the way to Orlando, Florida, where the 2012 World Championship of Public Speaking took place.
Everything turned out to be more than just fine, despite the usual worry, “how did the audience receive our session?” We had some terrific audience, about 70-80 people in the room, I estimated. You know an audience is terrific when you see people taking notes! J But the experience was beyond my expectation. You know that when people stop you the next day or two and tell you how they benefited from your session. When you fly fifteen hours back and forth and deliver a 20-minute presentation, you feel absolutely ecstatic when you hear some positive words from those who were in the audience.
What did I learn from the outstanding experience and from attending such a world class event?
- First of all, when you brush up with giants, you learn from them what really made them great speakers. It’s basically sticking to the process and learning the most important competencies of public speaking; these are NSA’s Eloquence (presenting and platform skills), Enterprise (business management and marketing), Expertise (topic and product development) and Ethics (professional relationships and industry awareness). By themselves, these four pillar competencies are deserving of a separate write-up. As a speaker, I know I am far from checking all four. But being their always provide an opportunity to learn from the best.
- Pro speakers don’t only speak! In addition to their tremendous speaking skills, each possesses a set of dazzling platform skills that set them apart. Some perform, some sing, some play an instrument, some act and some even utilize unique talents like gymnastics. These talents are not separable from their content; they complement it in a very entertaining way. Simply awesome!
- Pro speakers have a niche and they stick to it. They serve that niche in different capacities, as speakers, as authors, as consultants, as columnist, as trainers etc. This is a big thing that I find missing in myself and many emerging speakers in the region!
- I learned that, as a speaker, I should be creative and not shy from trying what may appear to be outlandish on the platform. Have you seen a speaker take the podium, stand on it on his hands, and address the audience?! An adventurous and jaw-dropper act, but within his comfort zone, and definitely his talent! The lesson: If I have a talent that augments my topic, I should seriously consider using it.
- Some people may find repetition sort of boring. I found it very educating. It was repetition with style! In one tremendous breakout session that I attended, a speaker took us through a step by step process on rehearsal. Every time she finishes a step, she would repeat it and act it with distinctive gestures, and she would repeat all the steps before it. All that, with participation of the audience! It was learning with style! Which reminds me…
- Pro speakers have their distinctive style when conducting a workshop. Some would jazz up their sessions with funky handouts, audience involvement, freebies, etc. You don’t just leave with the learning; you leave with something memorable too.
- People in attendance (some are pro speakers already) were humble and eager to see the speaker shine. I had the chance to interact with some who attended our workshop and got some valuable feedback. I asked for it! J There is a great value in networking!
I found Influence 18 as it was advertised for, the premier event for professional speaking. I look forward to attending Influence again in the future.
I hope my sharing of this learning experience would add value to you. If you have any questions or wish to invite me to speak at your event, please contact me.