Pushing Past the Public Speaking Challenge - AN ARTSY JOURNEY #31
Motoring into Wisconsin I rattled off ways for: Looking outside – review your location, your competition, your networking strengths, your transportation, your community’s economic conditions.
Hitting the Illinois boarder, I recited: Analyze. Make assumptions. Set goals. Get feedback. Re-evaluate. A business plan was an on-going process.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I would be working a business plan of my own for the rest of my career.
Pulling into the bowels of the McCormick Convention Center, I unloaded my booth gear. The set-up was a lot like New York Jacob Javits Convention Center. My cargo was fork-lifted to the freight elevators and bulldozed to my rented space. Within hours, the vast metal building with miles of cement floor turned into a world of glitzy booths. Again, I was a speck in the arena of giant manufactures.
The first day of the exhibit proved successful. I sold originals and three-piece sets of limited editions. I made a contact with Business Images, Paula Ply, a corporate art consulting group, who would later provide me years of work.
The morning of the second day, I shimmied into my below-the-knee straight skirt and matching jacket – the power suit. I pulled my hair back, adorned myself with simple jewelry, slipped into one-inch heels and toted a briefcase. I was ready according to Molloy’s, Women’s Dress for Success, another business book of the 1990's era I gleaned expertise.
Ten minutes early, I marched into the meeting room to be part of the keynote presentation. I was waved at from afar by the education coordinator, Amy, who was giving last minute instructions to the audio-visual technician. I recognized her rapid-fire prattle. It was the same cadence she used in our telephone conversations.
She flitted about the room in constant motion and two seconds later she was gone.
More than a hundred round tables draped in white linen circled the room. Front and center was the one rectangle table for the panel of five with a microphone in place for each speaker.
I scanned the place cards. The four other panelists were men. And they all had acronyms after their name, most commonly CPF for Certified Picture Framer.
I knew that the accreditation involved passing a three and half hour exam and prepping with twenty-six different reading references. I had yet attempted to tackle that goal.
My name, without acronyms, sat on the far right side. I was either going first … or last. I got a queasy stomach.
“Hey, there, young lady,” a voice from behind startled me.
I spun on my low sensible heel and locked eyes with a dapper older man in a three piece suit. From the buttoned-up vest hung a watch on a chain and he swung it in a circle. His eyeglasses sparkled in the light.
“Name is Bruce, Bruce Blaukamp” he crooned, his voice sounding smooth like a radio announcer. On second thought, not smooth, but oily.
His dark eyes lowered, and he pulled his trifocals farther down his nose and gave me the once over.
My cheeks heated at the realization, I stood up and squared my shoulders in an attempt to look taller and more ominous.
Before I could utter a word, another voice echoed the vast room. “Hey, Ken. Good to see you, again.”
A round man approached. “Ken Vanderbos,” he said to me, his voice switching low and serious.
“Kate Moynihan,” I offered, finding myself lowering my voice to match his.
He rubbed his chin with his hand as he studied me. Then he turned to Ken, “Are we going to agree this year?”
Ken gave his glasses a tap up his nose and shrugged.
Bruce’s round belly jiggled as he laughed. “So, maybe no late breakfast after this?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t break that tradition,” Ken chuckled along with his friend.
I sensed he and Ken had bacon, eggs, and political arguments on an annual basis making me wonder if I was in over my head. I felt like toast – burnt to a crisp.
Two other men sauntered into the room. Amy returned along with a stream of guest who quickly took seats at the round tables.
Amy did brief introductions. I would be last. Bruce started with his smooth croon. I shifted in my seat trying not to fidget. Ken talked with knowledge, not much regards to a business plan.
The third speaker added a bit more to the concept. While I kept an ear on the fourth speaker, I kept an eye on the door in case I needed to make a quick getaway. How fast could I pack up my booth and slither away to North Dakota without anyone seeing me?
When it was my turn to speak, I saw a few nodding heads, just blinks away from dozing. I cleared my throat and projected the three key steps of creating a business plan. The A-V tech flashed my slides. Heads lifted. In a few short minutes, all eyes were on me. My insides were humming with glee that I thought to bring visual aids. I told one quick personal story and summed up my presentation in fourteen minutes of the fifteen allowed.
It turned out public speaking was straightforward and predicable – a vivid contrast to my rough and rocky personal life.
After the seminar, I was asked to prepare an outline to teach all-day classes in San Francisco and again, in Chicago, at the next annual PPFA trade show. I was on top of the world. In addition to my entire transportation and lodging being covered, I would be paid a speaking fee and had an expense account!
My syllabus grew, and I spoke for PPFA for several years. In fact I spoke at PPFA conventions during my early years in Michigan. I spoke on diversifying beyond picture framing, creating a merchandise mix, mark-ups, display, and marketing.
But I found the world of framers was not my niche. My “mom-and-pop” shop owner audience was glued on picture framing, not the more artistic side of my knowledge..
Today, I take great interest in the TED talk presenters. I wonder what I could teach someone in eighteen minutes. I would like to try. Maybe someday I will be able to.
Have you ever heard a TED talk? Do you have a favorite?