I remember that day in 2012 walking into my first National Speakers Association (NSA) Conference with excitement and enthusiasm. That was soon crushed by fear and uncertainty.
I had left my position as Executive Director of a healthcare organization just months before. In that capacity, I went to conferences, spoke at them, and navigated the world of healthcare. I knew people. People knew me. I knew healthcare acronyms and the lingo. It was comfortable and fun. I was at home in that world.
But this was different. I felt alone. I felt out of place and lost in a world of people I didn’t know. I didn’t speak their language. After the second day I was ready to go home and by the end of the conference I had decided I would never attend another one. After all, I didn’t fit in this speaker world. I left feeling unnoticed and invisible. I wasn’t one of the ‘cool kids.’ I wasn’t even close.
It took months of soul searching and self-talk to return the next year. I did and I haven’t missed a year since. The second year I told myself that I would just go to listen to the great speakers – more for entertainment than anything. One year I went with the intention to learn, learn, learn. One year I went with the goal of not thinking about me or my speaking, but to help others in any way I could. Last year I went too soon after my car accident and spent most of the time in my hotel room in pain, crying, and just wanting to be home.
This year, my 8th conference, I finally felt at home. Over the years, I have met people that have become one special friend at a time. This year I knew people. People knew me. I have connected online with people that I was excited to spend time with. I was included by others and I invited people to spend time with me.
Even with all of that, there was one person, one moment, that made this year different for me. Her name is Naomi Rhode. She has been in the speaking business a long time. She has accomplished every measure of success in NSA and won every award. She is a level above the ‘cool kids.’
Right before the opening ceremony, she happened to be with me and said hello, introduced herself and asked what I do. I told her the short version of my story. I told her I teach people- How to Love Your life- NO MATTER WHAT. That I teach how to live in love and gratitude. How I speak to honor my son who I lost in 2007. I told her it was heart work for me.
Naomi didn’t just listen, she locked eyes with me. In a crowd of over 1000 people, she listened with her heart. And then, she said something I will never forget. She held my hand, looked me in the eye and told me how what I do is so important. That there are so many ‘lost’ people in the world and they need me. They need my message. And to never stop.
At that moment in a crowded ballroom I felt welcomed. I felt important. And for the first time, I felt like I was home.
I’ve been speaking since the time I could stand and entertain my family (yes, I am the baby), and I’ve been a speaker in some capacity at every job I have held in my life. Now, speaking on my own, I believe I do know a thing or two about speaking. When I met people this year who had that fear look that I had my first time I sat with them. I talked to them. I told them how I felt the first time and that it gets better.
At this year's conference I listened with my heart. I shared from my heart. I cried from laugher and from heart moments. And, I learned a lot!
And, I learned a lot!
But, the most important thing I learned is that one brief conversation when someone really listens and really cares can change you.
Maybe I will never be in the cool crowd. Maybe I will never stand on the main stage of this conference speaking about how to increase sales, improve your ROI, or the latest and greatest technology- because that is not my message. But what I know for sure is- Relationships are important. Connecting is important. What I do is important. There are many ‘lost’ people in the world and they need me. They need my message. And, no Naomi, I will never stop.
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Pennie’s Life Lesson: “It isn’t money, acceptance or accolades that constitutes doing important work. It is how you help others and make a difference in their lives.”
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My intent in sharing this with you is to encourage you to make a difference - one person at a time! Share your thoughts and experiences relating to this post in a comment below. And please feel free to email me at:
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There is a certain magic about where I live both physically and spiritually – on the crossroads of Spirit and Brave.
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