What Speakers Speak About
By Norma Hollis
I have to admit that I always wanted to be a professional speaker. I remember when I graduated from college, a voice within me told me I could go and speak to the world. But the rational side of me asked myself “What will you speak about? You haven’t even experienced the world yet.” This delayed my speaking career.
Then when I gained a couple decades of life experience I found myself in charge of the youth ministry at church. I shared responsibility for planning monthly services with a youth as the speaker. As people watched me prepare the youth to speak, many told me that I should speak too, that I had a good voice and would be a good speaker. But my question was, “What will I speak about? I’m not focused on a topic yet.”
Later when I retired from my first career in early childhood education, I finally felt ready to embrace a new career as a professional speaker. I had experience and success behind me. I was ready to learn the speaking industry and begin speaking. But my body said, “Not yet”. I had a health challenge that prohibited me from the traveling and output of energy that is required from a professional speaker. So my speaking career was still on hold.
Now, after operating a speakers bureau for 10 years, understanding the industry and learning from some of its best, I am finally ready to step out as a professional speaker. As I embark on this new angle of my career I still ask myself “What will I speak about?” It’s interesting how I’ve lived so much life but have to constantly ask myself “What will I speak about?”
I think each of us have an obligation to speak about something that is positive and uplifting to others. When I was first out of college I could have spoken to other young people about the value of college, how to survive college, how to approach the world, or life in general from a college student perspective. Likewise at my church I could have spoken about how the youth view church, the experience of working with youth, the importance of church for youth or other related topics but I couldn’t see it at the time. And when I left the field of early childhood education I could have spoken in the local community and eliminated the need for extensive travel.
When I coach speakers I encourage them to speak about the totality of their lives – look at all of their experiences and find a theme. That becomes the primary message; it becomes the speaker’s voice. As I look at the totality of my life I realize that my primary message is voice – the Power of VoiceTM. This expresses itself in my life through assisting others to use their voice; early childhood development and the voice of the children; entrepreneurship – the voice of business; women’s issues, parenting and general inspiration and motivation.
True professional speakers know what they will speak about and speak it well. I am proud to offer speakers to you through our column Powerful Speakers. In each issue we highlight speakers who are clear about “What they speak about”. They have taken their experiences and turned them into keynote speeches and training programs that bring out the best in others.
What do you speak about? Ok, maybe you are not a professional speaker, but you are a speaker. You speak to people every day, don’t you? What do you speak about? What do you find yourself sharing with other people? Is it a passion that you have? Is it knowledge you have learned and want to share? Do you want to help someone carve an easier path through life? Whatever you speak about – keep speaking. There is power in your voice and the world needs to hear it.
Norma Thompson Hollis, Founder and President of SPEAKERS ETCETERA and Black Speakers Online, coaches and promotes speakers across the country. Her website www.BlackSpeakersOnline.com hosts a comprehensive list of black speakers internationally. Her training programs and products can be seen at www.SpeakWithEaseAndConfidence.com.