Archive for Professional Speaking

A Return to Sheriff Smith’s Boxer Shorts

Marriage is built on trust. When I had only been married for 27 years, I returned from Tyler, Texas with a pair of white boxer shorts emblazoned with the name of Sheriff Smith on the backside. Sheriff Smith is a fellow member of the National Speaker’s Association. When he heard that a CSP, namely moi, was speaking in town, he arranged with the United Way committee that was sponsoring my visit, to be included in lunch. Of the 85,000 good citizens of Tyler, only Sheriff Smith probably knew what a CSP was. It means that I have completed at least 250 speeches in a 5 year period for not less than a total of $250,000, for at least a 100 different clients. Because of this, he wanted to meet me.

 Sheriff Smith, a fellow speaker, was running for office. He brought me a pair of his signature campaign boxer shorts. When Frank saw them come out of my suitcase, he thought I owed him an explanation. Imagine that. He calmed down when I gave him the handy-dandy hand-cuff keyring I also scored from the good Sheriff.

 When I got the call from Kyle Penney from the East Texas Communities Foundation asking me to come back to Tyler to speak about Raising Charitable Children, one of my first questions was, “How is Sheriff Smith” Well, it turns out, he is running for office again. It is in my contract that Kyle is going to try to score me another pair of boxer shorts.

When I grow up, I want to have the marketing chops that Sheriff Smith does.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP Wearing my own undies

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Choose Your Clients Wisely

I really blew it on Monday morning. I got up at 4:30 a.m. I read my notes. I did my hair. (Everyone knows you can’t do adequate strategic planning with bad hair). I stopped by Northwest Coffee for a double latte. I was loaded for bear.

I showed up 15 minutes early to begin facilitating the meeting. I was to run a series of committee meetings to help the board and stakeholders create a strategy for growth over the next 5 years.

We began at promptly at 7:30. 30 minutes into the meeting, one of the board members said, “I am really confused here. What does all of this have to do with governance.” I brilliantly replied, “This is the program committee meeting.” Everyone assured me I was in error. All 7 members of the governance committee were suddenly reassured that they weren’t crazy. It was their consultant who wasn’t making any sense.

I had done something I am truly embarrassed about. I had wasted my client’s time. They couldn’t have been nicer. They even rescheduled a follow-up meeting to work on real governance issues, not the program issues I had been prattling on about for the first 30 minutes of the meeting.

I felt like a total moron. Has my life been difficult lately? Yes. Should it be my client’s problem? No.

Not only will I make an end of the year contribution to these wonderful people, but I will also find a way to make this up to them.

Choose your clients wisely. We all fall on our faces periodically. It is nice to have someone lend a hand to help you up rather than stomp on your crumpled body.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, embarrassed in St. Louis

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Will I Ever Be a Lady?

winifred.jpgMy Mother used to tell my that her Mom would despair of her wild antics and tell her that she would never be a lady. In fact, my Mom became exactly the kind of lady I want to become and continue at times to fall short of: fun, forgiving, wise and compassionate. I spent time with another such Lady in London last week. As Frank says, she is three times a Lady. She was born the daughter of a Lord, she married a Lord and in her own right, she has the Order of the British Empire and now the Commander of the British Empire. Lady Winifred Tumin is simply one of my favorite people in the world. Frank and I saw her at the NCVO meeting where I was speaking and she invited us for lunch to her new digs on the Themes.

 What I don’t love about her house are the four levels of stairs, but Winnie is in her seventies and still has fabulous gams, so running up and down the stairs is paying off.

What I do adore about the house is the art. Like Winnie, it is eclectic and fun and discerning and varied. I wish I had that kind of taste.  Every room makes you want to curl up with your favorite tipple, whether latte or wine, and either read a favorite book or cuddle your favorite  sweetie.

But the best thing about lunch at Lady Winifred Tumin’s are Winnie’s stories. She is a raconteur’s raconteur. We sat glued as she told us about going into hiding during the Irish uprising when her late husband was found to be on at the top of the list of people scheduled to be assassinated.

 A title is pretty much out of the question for moi, and I’ll never have legs like Winifred or my Mom, but to achieve even the slightest bit of their joie de vivre would make me one happy little mud hen.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, not quite a lady

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On Being a Mentor and Having a Mentor

Karyn and GregI got off to a very rocky start with my mentor Karyn Buxman. When I joined the National Speaker’s Association 14 years ago, Karyn was assigned to be my mentor. I e-mailed her. I heard nothing back. I called her. Again silence. I wrote her. No word. Finally, I called the head of the program and I said, here’s the deal, I have no feelings about this woman, I’ve never met her. I don’t know her. I need help. If she doesn’t have the time, get me someone else. He got hold of Karyn. She called me and we met. Karyn’s Mother had big time health problems. Karyn was traveling like a mad woman. We agreed that she would mentor me and she would get back to me within 48 hours when I needed help. It was the beginning of a kick-ass friendship. Knowing that I would need publishing help down the road, she was considerate enough to fall in love with and marry Greg Godek who now also mentors me. Now that is a seriously considerate mentor!

I have a big challenge right now trying to decide how many books to publish with the NY Times, Parade Magazine and Scholastic Parent articles about to burst on the scene in November and December. Greg has been helping me decide whether to turn my book Raising Charitable Children over to a major publisher or a friend of his who is a distributor. God bless having smart friends.

Meanwhile, I have been mentoring an emerging speaker. I met her while work with a battered women’s shelter. She is a board member of the shelter. She has a powerful story to tell. We’ve worked together to craft her story. The first time she told it to the board, she got a standing ovation. The first time I got a standing O, I’d been speaking for three years! Karyn used to tell me “You’ve done well little grasshopper.” My little grasshopper has wings. She gave me permission to share this e-mail with you:

“As you know I haven’t done much in the way of my desire to do public speaking.  A few weeks back I was in San Francisco and one day I was touring the city by myself.  Seeking some “me” time, I sought out a church I knew had a labyrinth.  As I strolled through the church I came upon a side chapel that had a podium with the Bible on it.  Approaching, I realized the Bible was opened to my most favorite passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes, Everything Has Its Time.  As I stood there with my hands resting on the podium a lump formed in my throat and tears in my eyes.  I felt I was finally “at home”.  Soon I was filled with great internal peace and a strong voice within that said “YES…this is it!  Getting a message out to others is what I am supposed to do!”  For years my question to God has been “What do you want me to do with all of “this” — all the experiences you continue to bring before me?”  I continue to receive individual pieces of the puzzle but I can’t seem to put it all together.  I have visions of what I believe will be, but I don’t quite know how to put it all together.  As I stood there and read the passage I found comfort in the words….For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven….

I am so glad to have you in my life….you are truly an inspiration.”

If you don’t have a mentor, get one. If you aren’t mentoring someone, offer.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, Mentor, Mentee

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The Magical Week

We’ve all had weeks where nothing goes right. Last week was just magical. I went to work in Williamsport, PA for the First Community Foundation of Williamsport, which is actually the 6th Community Foundation in the US. My hostess, Julie Adams, was hyperventilating big time. In the past, they had a dinner, but it had gotten to the point where the banks that bought a table were sending their tellers, so they thought they’d have a speaker instead. Enter moi. Julie and I talked about having an afternoon workshop on getting your board involved in fund-raising. Her goal was 50. It sold out at 165, the max the venue held and there was a waiting list. The afternoon session went great and Julie went from grey to pink. My friend David Strom (A fabulous man to know) had pitched a story to the NY Times about my book “Raising Charitable Children.” They bit. I got a call from the Times and they asked if they could send a reporter to Williamsport. I thought for about a nanosecond and said yes. Not only did the reporter show up, but so did PBS to film the Raising Charitable Children speech. I had forgotten that I had signed a release. It just kept getting better. Three flights later, I was in Oklahoma City. It only takes as long to get from Williamsport, PA to Oklahoma City as it does to get from LA to Melbourne. (In case you were wondering). Again, I had a fabulous hostess. Not only did Gayle Farley take me out for great Mexican food, but when I got back to my amazing hotel room at the newly renovated Skirvin Hilton, a bag of designer chocolates arrived in my room. Heaven. I did my speech, hopped on my 7th and 8th flights of the week and arrived home happy on Friday night. On Saturday, I had a phone interview with a reporter who wanted to know about family giving traditions. I had no idea what publication the reporter was from. I asked her. She said Parade. I asked which Parade. She said THE Parade, the magazine with the largest distribution of any magazine in the world. I just sat there stupefied. We chatted for 45 minutes. She told me that on Monday she would be talking to Bill Clinton for the same article about his book “Giving” and to expect a call from a fact checker and that the article will appear on Dec. 16. I hung up. I stared into the horizon and had a moment of utter contentment. Perhaps this week there will be a cure for cellulite. One can only hope!

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My Mastermind Group and Baseball

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Andy called at noon on Wednesday, “I’m in town and I’ve got four baseball tickets. Can you go to a day game tomorrow?” A miracle happened. Everyone in our mastermind group could make it.

This is my third mastermind group. Like the first, we are all professional speakers. The first group had 7 members and , we shared our fears, ranted about difficult clients and celebrated our victories for 7 years. It was an opportunity to get a different slant on anything from marketing materials, to speech topics, to how to leave a spouse without getting shot. Then one member moved to California, another went back to school and we moved on.

The next group lasted about an hour and a half and was a disaster. We had different occupations, some didn’t speak and it fell apart pretty quickly.

My second group fell apart last summer when my business was in its first slump in 14 years. I was scared, miserable and not a happy girl. I knew that three guys in our National Speakers Association chapter had a group, so I asked to be included. Fate smiled and I got in.

We are a rather unusual group. I am the only bit of estrogen in a sea of testosterone. Scott Ginsberg is in his twenties, Andy Masters is in his thirties, Steve Hughes is in his forties and I am in my fifties. We meet once a month for 3-4 hours and go over marketing, book production, surviving the road etc. We all speak on different topics and have very different points of view. I am blogging thanks to Scott. He is the ultimate blogmeister. I worship at his keyboard.

Since joining my new mastermind group, my business is totally back on track and I’ll have the best year in Board Builders history.

When I’m on the road and something wonderful or awful happens, I have my buds to share it with. And sometimes, I can actually help someone else.

And best of all, we can have fun together and after only 15 years, I’m back at the ballpark. Don’t ask me who we were playing, but I know that I won.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, Baseball Enthusiast & Masterminder

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How to MC an Event Like a Pro

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After a speech at the St. Louis Press Club, I received a call from one of my Mother’s dear friends whose boyfriend, age 88, was a member of the Press Club. She had heard me speak and wanted to hire me to MC her 90th birthday party. I knew that my Mother, who has been dead for 17 years, would never forgive me if I didn’t do it pro bono, but I also knew that at 90, Felicia would have a very severe case of sticker shock if she knew what a professional speaker, even someone in the K-Mart range, charged, for what would amount to around 8-9 hours of work.     

First task, interview the birthday “girl.” I always start with the question, “When your guests leave, how would you like them to think, feel or act differently?” Felecia explained that she would like her guests to feel warm and happy and welcomed. I then asked her about your childhood, her nursing career, her courtship, her years as a Mother and so on.  One of the most interesting responses was to the question, “If you could live your life over, what would you change?” She answered immediately, “I would like to have had a Mother. Mine died when I was 18 months old.” When I later interviewed her three children, they were all surprised at this response: That at 90, that was still such a hole in their Mother’s heart.

We looked at photos, she shared stories and showed me around her apartment. Going to the home of the person who is being celebrated is a great gift. You can see the layers of their personality. It turns out that she was a friend of the great Southwestern artist Gorman and had some magnificent originals. There were books that she was reading and she shared photos of her 85th birthday and told me what she enjoyed.

The next step was to interview the kids. These were phone interviews, as the “kids” now in their fifties and sixties, lived out of town. They made it very clear that this was to be a toast and NOT a roast. As a professional, it is very important to get the tone just right. What might appear maudlin to a gruff old duffer, might be just the right touch for an elegant lady in pearls. Felicia had given me the name of her contact at the Ritz and told me to make arrangement for a microphone and anything else that I needed. I checked with her daughters to find out who was making the arrangements with the hotel and asked that they take care of this. I NEVER request anything from a hotel that will cost my client money without the person who is signing the checks making the request. When I’m not sure, as in this case, I keep asking.

It was decided that the grandchildren and two of the great grandchildren would like to make toasts in addition to Felicia’s three children and her sweetie, Eddie. I typed out my speech notes and the order of speakers on 18 point type on yellow card stock. The reason I use a different color paper is so that no one will walk away with my notes. This might really seem ridiculous, but I also try to match the card stock to my outfit. As I pointed out in my speech, I look like the love child of Barbra Streisand and Henry Kissinger, so I need all the help I can get, but also, it takes attention away from the notes.

I welcomed the guests on Felicia’s behalf when we sat down for dinner and told that that there would be no speeches until after dinner and wished them a Bon Appetite. Had there been a prayer, this would obviously been the time to introduce the person offering the blessing. After dinner, I started by announcing that this was an HBT event. Horizontal By Ten. I don’t know who appreciated this announcement more, the young couples in love, or the ninty year olds in long line bras. Suffice it to say, they were pleased. Every speech needs a premise. Mine was to compare Felicia to the great first ladies. She seemed very pleased with the comparison. During the comparisons, I tried to weave in the other people in the room. For instance, when I compared Felecia to Jackie Kennedy, I said that although Jackie certainly had great style and knew the top designers of her day, if Caroline had needed a new outfit for her Barbie doll, Jackie would not have the help of a sewing club like Felecia’s Club. I then introduced the 5 remaining members of the original 8 members of her sewing club that started over 60 years ago during WWII.

Next was introducing the other speakers. For folks who are not used to using a microphone, it is helpful to stay near in case you have to help them hold it a little closer or further from their mouths. You will want to have a cordless microphone so that you can run to people who want to talk who might feel shy. This is particularly important when working with children, older folks or the disabled. Several of the guests were in wheelchairs and I could easily get to them and not worry about tripping myself or someone else or having them have to come to the front. It was, after all, an HBT event, so I had to keep it moving. And nothing delays an event like a broken leg and the intervention of the EMTs.

I asked people to share “a fond memory.” Had it been my birthday, I would have wanted my friends to share “a funny story.” Again, its the MC’s job to set the tone and keep it on track.

Felecia had the last words, thanking her guests and inviting them to join her for cake. While she and her great grandchildren prepared to blow out the candles, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” and they blew out the candles.

My sister is a retired Obstetrician. No one would ever say to her what was said to me at the end. One of the ladies said, “You just have a natural gift!” After only 9 hours of work, it should look effortless. I left laughing was was HBT.

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