In 2014 I was invited to attend the annual convention of the Professional Speaking Association of the UK.
Otherwise known as the PSA.
I was not a speaker back then.
I didn’t even know if I wanted to be one, or if I could make a living from it.
Life was very different for me 4 years ago.
For a start I was unemployed after being made redundant for the 4th time in 10 years, and I was a new mum too.
One of my biggest worries about attending this conference was that I didn’t have a dress to wear for the Gala Dinner. I wasn’t really in the habit of going to gala dinners…and none of my clothes fit me after having my daughter.
I was really worried that my lack of a posh frock would have people find me out as a fraud.
So I took the last £20 from my account and headed to the shops to see if it was even possible to pick up a dress that cheap.
Turns out it was.
£14.99 got me a sparkly black number…I was chuffed.
I felt like a bit of a cheapskate but it would do.
The conference was amazing, I remember looking at the speakers and thinking “That’s what I want to do”
Fast forward a few years and it is exactly what I do….alongside a few other things as well.
That little £14.99 black dress did me well.
I wore it for my first ever after dinner gig, and a charity auction, and an overseas convention gala dinner….and I think a night out on the tiles.
And last week I upgraded it to a new sparkly black dress for this years Professional Speaking Associations convention gala night….and let’s just say this one didn’t cost less than £20 quid.
It wasn’t the only dress I took to that convention either, I packed 8 dresses in fact and I was determined to wear as many of them as possible?
Because I could.
This year I was the final keynote on the Saturday before the gala dinner.
It is an honor to get that slot, a privilege reserved for the best speakers the industry has.
I am not the best speaker the industry has…but I gave it my best shot.
The theme was adventure and my talk was entitled “The BIGGEST Adventure of all” and that is the one where you are your self.
I ummed and arred over my choice of dress for weeks..
- Should I play it safe?
- Should I wear patterns?
- Should I lose some weight?
- Should I commission a dress especially to hide my lumps and bumps
- Should I put together a talk where I play small and hide as much of myself away
Because all of those things were tempting I can tell you.
In the end I opted for this one…it was bright and bold and I felt great in it.
For a lot of women….a dress is never just a dress.
It’s never just something we throw on.
There are normally a series of thoughts and considerations which go on to make sure it is the right dress for the occasion, and even then you sometimes regret your choice.
Through my work as a coach I help women live BIGGER lives by improving their health, wealth and happiness, and often that involves helping them to be more visible.
Now increasing your visibility DOES NOT mean wearing a skin-tight red dress, and sparkly shoes…but what it does mean is dressing in a way which truly reflects your personality without the fear of judgement.
Increasing your visibility can mean learning to like yourself in photos, it can mean speaking up when something annoys or upsets you, it can mean sitting at the front of a workshop rather than sitting in the back.
For the first year that I attended the London regional meeting of the PSA, I used to sit in the back row…consistently.
I never asked questions.
I found it hard to strike up conversations or ask for advice from some of the more successful speakers, and for a while I wondered if I would ever make it as a professional speaker.
But then one meeting I decided to sit at the front.
I did put my hand up…in fact I won a book for my troubles
And bit by bit it became easier to speak to people and ask for help.
During this time I had also made up my mind that I wouldn’t wear dresses like some of the other female speakers in the room. I was an athlete, after all, I wanted to be comfy, I didn’t feel like I should have to dress well to do well.
I now know that was an excuse.
A bullshit idea I had had to try and keep me playing small, playing safe.
I love wearing dresses…I always have, I just wasn’t ready to be fully visible yet.
I think I am now.
I had an epic time at this years 3-day conference, taking 7 of my dresses for a spin…I can’t wait for next years conference.
Book your ticket now at the earlybird price and join me and some of the best speakers in the world. Don’t be afraid to show up as you, to stand out from the crowd. You don’t have to wear a dress to do that, but you do have to be you.
The next round of my Stop Dieting, Start Living Programme goes live next Monday. Click here for more information and to secure your spot.
Don’t show off young lady
Nobody likes a show off Julie
I can’t remember who specifically told me those things growing up, but it’s the overwhelming message I got from the adults around me.
Stay humble, don’t stand out from the crowd, don’t get too big for your boots…give everyone else a chance too.
I’ll just shut up.
I mean thats the alternative isn’t it?
Hiding away, keeping quiet about your skills and qualities, not letting people see the full version of you
I have been thinking about this a lot recently.
It is a very peculiar thing having a presence on social media. Whether you are an online coach and fitness influencer like me, or you simply upload the occasional update on Facebook, getting the balance between showing up and showing off is tricky.
Over the years I have often found myself posting something on Instagram and thinking,
Oh no I’ve turned into one of those annoying people
Or worse still
WTF do I think I am?
It’s actually not that dissimilar to the dilemma I face as a speaker too.
The world of being a professional speaker, you know someone who is actually paid to stand up on a stage and speak to an audience on a range of topics is a weird one, and it’s hard to describe it to anyone who hasn’t experienced it.
I often flip from feelings of absolute imposter syndrome to the feeling that my message is somehow shaping the world in a blink of an eye….never anything in between.
Some people say you have to be a real show off to be a speaker, but I disagree…and it has taken me a while to fully embrace this side of me.
For example I am anxiously waiting for the release of my upcoming Tedx talk…and I’m not sure how I feel about complete and utter strangers seeing and hearing me talk from their desktops and phones all over the world, it is a little nerve-wracking.
But funnily enough…not as nerve-wracking it turns out as speaking in front of your entire family.
That is what I did on Saturday at my older brother Gary’s wedding.
He asked me to make a speech during the ceremony of his wedding to his long-term partner Vicky, and I was absolutely honored…but equally a bit baffled. I am the least lucky in love person you could meet and this is the 2nd time I have been asked to make such a speech at a wedding…the irony is never lost on me.
What the hell could I possibly say about love?
And that’s when it came to me
The reasons why marathons are like marriages
And I started to have a bit of fun with it.
Me and my siblings, and my lovely Mum in the middle keeping us all in check
I wrote the speech sent it over to him and his future wife and then completely forgot about it until the night before when I thought I’d better have a look at it, and that’s when the panic set in.
The whole marathon thing seemed like a ridiculous idea, after all the day was not about me it was about them, and neither of them can run for a bus!!!
But it was too late…I had committed.
As I sat at the front waiting for the bride to arrive I think I was more nervous than my brother, and that’s saying something, but as I looked around the room I knew I was among friends (and of course family old and new) and that if nothing else at least it would be a talking point.
I was super shaky as I walked to the front.
No warm up exercises, no vocal stuff to calm my voice…I just had to give it my best shot.
I took a big breath and began.
A few minutes later after some laughter, lots of nodding and some tears from my wonderful audience I finished up with….
Yes, Marriage is a Marathon.
You will come out of it stronger than when you entered it
Don’t forget Gary & Vicky just how proud we all are of what you have achieved today and remember to smile for the cameras.
I sat back in my seat, my sister hugged me and I shed a tear (OK a few tears), the emotion of it all getting the better of me.
It was done.
I was 100% me, I had tried to be quirky and unique and I had meant every word.
Since the wedding (which was a beautiful affair) I have had so many of my family tell me how great/clever/unique my talk was, and just how proud they were of me, even my Mum mentioned it, and getting a compliment out of her is a bloody miracle (thanks mum)
So the big question is was I showing off, or was I simply showing up?
Showing up, the only way I know how I’m afraid.
Visibility plays a major part in my Living a Bigger Life coaching programme. Helping women to show up in their own lives as themselves without apology. The impact of this on their relationships, their careers and in achieving their goals is phenomenal.
The next cohort of this 3-month programme starts on the 17th of September. To secure your spot or to ask me any questions you might have, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
A massive congratulations to the happy couple, and thank you so much for allowing me to play a part in your big day.