By Amanda Benson, Writing Your Life staff
Last Friday, Patricia gave a presentation called “Be a Speaking Sensation” at the annual conference of Florida Authors and Publishers Association (FAPA). As her assistant, I often have the privilege of tagging along with her to events such as this to help set up, distribute handouts, and take pictures. I also get the invaluable benefit of hearing all of Patricia’s talks, which I hope and pray are getting saved somewhere in my memory bank.
She seemed a little nervous this time. She’s not normally, at least not visibly. Perhaps it was because of a topic not focused on writing or the task of keeping everyone awake post-lunch.
Yet, as she mounted the stage Friday afternoon, she did what she always does. She showed up as authentically as she could. Immediately, she admitted to the audience, “It was only as I prepared for this presentation that I realized, ‘What have I done? After all, I did pick this topic! So, here I am speaking to you about how to speak to an audience. I know how this works. You’ll be evaluating me the whole time!’ She smiled. Knowing chuckles rippled across the ballroom. She was right.
Right away, her self-deprecating humor charmed the audience and reeled them in. Patricia didn’t let any fear of imperfection thwart her work. She began sharing with the group ten things one needs to know to be a speaking sensation, all of which is wisdom Patricia learned the hard way throughout her twenty years of speaking: by experience.
With notes in hand and PowerPoint slides clicking away, Patricia demonstrated being true to her unique self before an audience and used humor not to take herself too seriously. Plenty of great stories and illustrations were woven in, keeping the audience engaged and entertained. She kept in contact with the crowd directly by asking for a show of hands for various questions.
Ultimately, Patricia relied upon her preparation and goals for the talk and then released it all with an open hand. All of this is exactly what she was teaching her audience to do as speakers. In fact, she was a living embodiment of her life motto: The only way to do this wrong is to not do it at all!
Afterward, during the Q&A, I witnessed what I call “Patricia’s Heart of Gold Moment.” A member of the audience asked about Patricia’s work with publishing people’s life stories, wondering about memorable or meaningful jobs she had been involved in.
Immediately Patricia recalled a client who was battling cancer and hoped to publish his memoir before his time ran out. She shared about how together they worked to bring about his dream of publication. With emotion and a few tears, she described witnessing this wallflower be a star for probably the only time in his life as he shared his newly published memoir with his genealogy group. His group was ecstatic for him; his face was glowing. That was two weeks before he passed away.
“It is such a privilege and honor when someone asks me to help bring his or her story to life, for I believe our stories are our most precious possessions. They are what connect us to each other and let us know we are not alone in this world. I feel so fortunate for the chance to work with so many amazing people.”
Is this a digression from sharing about Patricia’s speaking engagement at FAPA? I think not. It reveals Patricia’s heart for what is true and real. She cares about the people she encounters, whether in an audience or as a client. Further, she doesn’t just toss around a catchy motto. She lives it and dares us to as well.