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.
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
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.