By Evan Carmichael on October 28th, 2012
Barry Roberts is a Gold author on EvanCarmichael.com – to view his articles click here. We asked him how he got his first customer, here is what he said:
My First Speaking Engagement
Has it been 20 years already? My good friend and speaking mentor Gil Eagles encouraged me to begin my speaking career before I knew what it was all about. Gil advised me that the way I personally dealt with day-to-day stress was something worth sharing with others. Not realizing that I was doing anything extraordinary, I began to extensively research this subject area, as I continue to do even today.
After several years of inquiry and study, months of writing and rewriting, hours of rehearsal and preparation, I was ready! My first public performance of the material and my presentation, then titled, Fun With Stress, Using Our Sense of Humor to Minimize Day-to-Day Stress, would be for a local, joint meeting of a Men’s Association and Ladies Auxiliary. Until this time, I had only shared the program with my immediate family. They were honest with me; they liked it and I believed it was very good. I was just a little nervous. I had been singing and entertaining in night clubs for many years at this point, but this was very new to me.
Mailings were sent to all members of both groups and advertising posters with my photo were posted all over town. At last, the big night arrived and it seemed that everyone had shown up; I observed an equal number of friends, family and unfamiliar faces. While the room was filling up, I found a quiet corner of the corridor. There really was no backstage or private area for me to collect my thoughts. Today, I enjoy “working the room” and meeting the audience members prior to speaking; on that day, I just wanted some alone time to review my notes. Friends and well-wishers found me to offer encouragement and to tell me how eager they were to hear my presentation. With about five minutes to go, a middle aged woman I did not know approached me, rather slowly.
“Excuse me” she said, “are you the speaker?”
“Yes, I am” I replied, with a big smile on my face.
She nodded her head slowly for a moment. As she looked me directly in the eye she said, “My son died two months ago and was sick for a very long time before that. So, just how are you going to make me laugh?”
I was stunned. I couldn’t speak. My stomach sank and my heart was in my throat. I felt incredibly sorry for this woman and saw the anguish on her face. I didn’t know what to say and honestly don’t remember what I eventually did say. I do remember thinking, “Oh my goodness, this is horrible and not what I need right now.” I felt selfish thinking that and yet, somehow, we finished our conversation as she walked into the auditorium. I gave myself a pep talk; I knew I had to shake this off and deliver an outstanding presentation. Hearing my introduction, my energy level was up; “…… and so ladies and gentleman, let’s welcome Barry Roberts!”
I walked onto the stage to a nice round of applause and began my program. Throughout my years of stage experience, I always made a point of making direct eye contact with various, individual audience members. This helped them make a more personal connection with me and, as I saw smiling faces, it became very soothing and built my confidence. Ninety seconds into the program, I made eye contact with “the woman,” sitting rather glum faced, right there in the center of the fourth row. I was rattled for the moment, and quickly decided that if I were to stay composed, to stay upbeat, I had to avoid eye contact with her again. If I couldn’t see that she was accepting of my philosophy on using our sense of humor to minimize stress, it would destroy me.
As the evening went on, the attendees laughed and nodded approval at all the right places. They were truly “up” during the audience participation segments and I finished to sincere, enthusiastic applause. Friends, family and many of those unfamiliar faces rushed me afterward to tell me how much they enjoyed and appreciated all I had to say. I was thrilled, and at the back of the crowd was “the woman,” waiting to talk to me after everyone else had gone.
“Barry?” she said.
“Yes, um…thank you for staying.”
“Barry, I’m sorry to have told you all of that before your program and now I want you to know that for the first time in two and a half years, you taught me that it’s OK to laugh again. It’s OK to live my life and have a good time. Thank you for that…thank you very much.” And, she reached out and gave me a hug.
I understood at that moment what it was to make a positive difference in someone’s life and I realized that this was what I wanted to continue to do. I feel blessed to have had and continue to have the opportunity to do just that!
When Barry Roberts talks about stress, innovative thinking, leadership, self-esteem and humor in the business world, or in life, he talks from empirical knowledge and practical experience. Barry is an acclaimed professional speaker and dedicated researcher investigating the functions of humor on human effectiveness. Barry’s articles have appeared in national magazines and his books Practice Safe Stress and The Sales Coach ll have been very well received. Combining his skills as an educator, entertainer, businessman and serious researcher Barry offers six of the most effective and entertaining programs you will experience. “Practice Safe Stress” (Minimize Stress to Maximize Performance & Profits), “How to Use Your Innovative Thinking Skills” (Develop the Skill to Generate More Business & Spark Your Sales), “Meeting the Challenge of Leadership” (Is it in you?), “The L.I.F.E. Approach to Positive Humor” (Making positive humor a part of your life) and “Esteem-Rolling Your Way To Success” (Building a Confident, Efficient Person), are regularly receiving kudos from organizations across the United States and Canada.
Tags: advertising posters, audience members, encouragement, five minutes, friends family, gil eagles, good friend, immediate family, mentor, middle aged woman, night clubs, private area, public performance, quiet corner, rehearsal, sense of humor, speaking engagement, stress, subject area, well wishers