I’ve begun working on a keynote speech and thought I’d share with you my idea and the process I’m using to craft it.
The working title is of my presentation is The Power of Small: Sys-bits for Big Results. The initial speech will be 20 minutes in length and is the main deliverable for a Toastmasters Pathway project (Level 5 in the Presentation Mastery path).
The concept for this keynote has been swirling around in my mind for many months and features ideas and tales about systems, habits and methodologies that I have used in the past 40 years to accomplish my goals. My personal experiences as a unicycle rider, a Toastmaster, and a published author will be highlighted as I weave together the stories and points in support of my Power of Small approach.
My first story will describe my experience of learning to ride a unicycle when I was ten years old and how I, without knowledge or formal training, employed the principles of Agile and experimentation to achieve my lofty goal.
The second story of my keynote speech will chronicle the techniques and visualize tools I used to compile and publish my first book in five months. Leveraging my Project Manager and Scrum Master skills allowed me to know which systems and habits to use to get the job done on time and under budget. I also think that my “Power of Small” method of book writing improved my creativity and increased my quality.
The final story of my big speech about small steps will feature an analysis of the Toastmaster educational program called Pathways. This proven system is an incremental learning experience designed to help members build the skills they need to be better communicator and leaders.
Another big step I’ve taken in my speech creation in hiring a professional Coach to assist me in refining, shaping and optimizing my words and my delivery. More to come on this endeavor.
So that’s what I have to share with you thus far.
The small steps of my journey to an amazing Keynote have begun and I’m excited to report my progress along the way to you.
On November 4, 2021, I hosted a book launch party for Strong Words and Simple Truths in Phoenix, Arizona. The venue was a fun, independent coffee shop called The Buzzed Goat and Ernie the hedgehog fit right in.
Our spirited gathering included over 30 friends, coworkers, toastmasters and veterans. The energy in the room was electric and I was thrilled to be able to speak in front of a live audience.
Below is a video of my short presentation and tribute to military veterans.
For more information on my book Strong Words and Simple Truths click here.
Earlier this year I embarked on a journey to write and publish my first book, Strong Words and Simple Truths. After eight years of writing this blog, I knew I had enough content (102 Posts with over 50,000 words). The trick was figuring out how to knit together so many seemingly disparate topics into a cohesive and interesting story.
I had a mountain of ideas and knew I had to focus, organize and categorize.
The first thing I did was put on my Scrum Master hat and break out the pink and yellow sticky notes! For a definition of what a Scrum Master is click here.
With an Agile mindset, I set about the task of visualizing every blog post. I did this by writing the title of every blog with a black marker on square sticky notes. The pink notes covered the majority of the wall in my home office. For more information on Agile click here.
The next step involved organizing and grouping the blog titles into themes or categories. I ended up with eight themes that I wrote on larger, rectangular sticky notes. I moved the smaller titles around on the wall so they were under the appropriate theme. I let this display sit on my wall for many weeks and I spent hours staring at them to see how they looked together. I moved some titles around and I removed over 20 blogs entirely. This editing process was difficult but very important to the integrity and flow of the book.
The eight themes became the chapters of the book which are: Communication, Toastmasters, Creativity, Veterans, the 1980s, Gratitude, Science and Health, and Agile.
I built a storyboard of the eight chapters to help visualize the order and flow of the themes. I evolved and iterated on this multiple times and landed on this display which includes the custom drawn illustrations by Alex Delit Garcia.
The creation of the Table of Contents was quite simple as I ordered the blog titles chronologically under each chapter/theme.
To tie all of the chapters together, I chose a fun and symbolic circus theme. Each chapter was represented by a character or element from the circus and I spun a tale about a curious girl named Elizabeth and her hedgehog friend, Ernie. The story took us on a “run away and join the circus” journey and wove together all of the chapters’ topics with the Ringleader kicking things off.
The use of a creative and symbolic fiction story to tie together 80 non-fiction articles was a fun and effective way to compile and build a book in a short amount of time. From the start of my sticky note wall display to the publication of the book was five months (including the creation of the chapter illustrations and the editing/formatting).
I often call my book a patchwork quilt of lifelong learnings, dreams and ideas and I hope you enjoyed my sharing of the stitching process!
For more information on Strong Words and Simple Truths: The Courage to Communicate, click here.
There are over one hundred and seventy thousand commonly used words in the English language, but most people employ just a fraction of them in their daily lives. Many people yearn to find and articulate the truth. The courage to communicate has many meanings; each of us struggling to get our voices heard brings our own understanding and desires to the process. I bring my understanding of communication and wish to be heard to this book.
Growing up in a large family in the northeastern United States, I learned the value of direct and powerful communication. I still appreciate the emphatic and heartfelt style of my New Jersey upbringing and have spent my adult life honing my skills through key programs, paths, and career choices.
I believe that strong words have the power to catalyze change, that direct communication has value, and that words have energy.I believe that words are best when they are consumable, easily understood, and impactful.
I also believe that simplicity in communication is elegant. Simple is clear and honest and true. The most delicious recipes have five or fewer ingredients. My Mom’s delicious rice pudding comes to mind. But alas, communication is not always as simple as a recipe.
From this understanding came the title of my first WordPress blog, Strong Words and Simple Truths, which I began writing in 2013. The title encompasses everything I believe about communication, and I have not changed the focus or intent of the phrase in my nine years of blogging.
I always have an idea that I’d like to share, so I’ve continued thinking, speaking, and blogging about communication since 2013. I am rarely at a loss for words.
Some of the articles I published on my blog were adapted from speeches I gave at Toastmaster meetings. Other times, I would challenge myself to convert a blog article into a speech. I found the challenges of the back-and-forth creations fun and fascinating. This process taught me the important lesson that the spoken word is quite different from the written word, and through this hard work I learned to be more flexible and creative in my communication style.
This book invites you to accompany me on a journey of discovery through a curated selection of over eighty articles from my blog. When I decided to compile these articles into a book, I knew that the same title, Strong Words and Simple Truths, would perfectly express what I am trying to convey. Little did I know when I started writing my blog that the extreme events of 2020 and 2021 would make my pithy title and subtitle all the more relevant and important.
So here I am, sharing in the most powerfully vulnerable way I have ever attempted. Blogging and public speaking are one thing, but publishing a book has brought me to a whole new level of commitment to my beliefs and my message.
The format of this book was inspired by author and fellow veteran, Ed Latimore. His book, Not Caring What Other People Think Is a Superpower: Insights from a Heavy Boxer, was an outstanding compilation of his tweets, which includes strong and powerful lessons of life.
In this book, I blend the creative power of agility, communication, history, and science to create a patchwork quilt of my ideas, stories, and dreams.
I am honored to share the stories of the people and personalities who shaped who I am today. While I may not have been completely fearless as a child, the role models I emulated were feisty, strong, and spirited. Many of the themes in this book were inspired by my mom, Virginia, my brother, Bill, and my sister, Barbara. During elementary and high school, I was encouraged and guided by many amazing and motivational teachers and coaches.Ihad role models from the entertainment world as well. I desired to be as daring as Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett and as strong as Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman.
These role models were heroes to me, and they inspired me to branch out and achieve the substantial and audacious goals I set for myself. I hope they will inspire you to do the same.
As a young adult, I had two different career aspirations. In high school, I wanted to be a medical doctor. After college, I considered becoming a science teacher.The common thread through my life is the desire to help people, share knowledge, and train others to learn new skills.
In this book, I’ll also share lessons from mymilitary service, which taught me the importance of KISS- Keep It Simple Soldier (or Stupid as some would joke). As a US Army Signal Corps officer, I supported combat and support units on the battlefield with precise and effective communication infrastructure and procedures.When lives depend on clear, concise, and timely messages, you learn to value their quality greatly.
My wish is that you find this book entertaining and educational, and I hope that it motivates you in creative and unique ways. I also pray that these words, thoughts, and expressions pay adequate tribute to the brave and selfless heroes in our world.
I have grouped the blog articles into eight sections. Each article includes the original publication date and appears as it originally appeared on the blog (with some proofreading to correct minor issues). I stitched the articles together much as a quilter would piece together colorful fabrics to create an intricate and appealing pattern. To keep things fun, I chose a theme from the magical world of the circus.
The sections of this book represent the main interests, influences, values, priorities, and passions in my life, each linked to a symbolic element from the circus.To aid the reader in remembering the sections and their symbols, I created a brief tall tale to open the book.
Strong Man—Veterans, Remembrance and Traditions
Laughter—Connections and Gratitude
Animals—Science and Truth
When you read the Table of Contents, you can think of it as a menu for a smorgasbord dinner which allows you to select the topics that most appeal to you. It’s a collection of various perspectives, angles, and tastes.
Come on, let’s run away and join the circus for a few hours!
I am crafting the introduction to the Toastmaster section of my upcoming book, Strong Words and Simple Truths and wrote penned (literally in a paper journal with an ink pen) the short poem below. Words flow differently when you write them by hand. While awkward at first, they soon loosened up.
Where Speakers are Sharpened and Words are Wondrous.
Where Leaders are Made and Alliteration is Alluring.
Where Communicators are Courageous and Friendships are Fostered.
As a public speaker in Toastmaster clubs for over 25 years, I understand and appreciate the impact of a well-crafted phrase. Words have the immense power to inspire, educate, persuade and entertain.
Now certain ideas, phrases and books are deemed inappropriate and unacceptable. Entertainment in the form of humor and satire is slowly being extinguished. The creative spark of many minds is being snuffed out.
In the name of “compliance” and “correctness” we have limited and constrained our ability to share and discuss ideas. Only the government-approved ideas are allowed on the most powerful and prolific platforms. Those in power control the narrative and are now limiting the free exchange and expression of thought.
Like the lockdowns of the past year, this is not a healthy trend. The impact of the current silencing is devastatingly sad.
Some say that laughter is the best medicine. Entertainment and light-hearted comedy can help heal our lonely and wounded souls.
Humor is a uniquely human superpower that is being taken away when we need it most.
I do not condone angry, hurtful speech but the recent crack down on “violations of community standards” is a bit harsh and extreme in my view.
Why do some powerful entities want to keep everyone so sad, anxious and upset? Do they want people do remain lonely, isolated and frustrated?
More and more I am witnessing creative creators being suppressed. These creators have been a shining light of entertaining wordplay and comic relief through out this year of dark fear and despair. These fun and joyful voices are now stifled and suppressed.
The fear of the virus is now being replaced with the fear of words. The wide, rich and expressive vocabulary of the English language is being brutally pruned by oppressive control freaks.
At the rate things are going, I soon won’t be able to write or speak the words “oppressive control freaks” without being banned or punished.
As I continue on my creative journey of expression, I hope that my courage and resolve remain steady and strong in the face of increasing pressure to conform and be quiet.
Word phobia is a sad new condition that I hope will be treated by an infusion of ingenious humor and reasonable common sense.
As the world begins to heal and open up, freedom will beget happiness. Happiness is sustained by fun entertainment.
Words have the power to entertain, let’s not take that potential away.
The Silence of the Lambs is a thrilling book, but I don’t want a world of the Quieting of the Sheep.
Dare to venture into the wonderful world of social distortion, um, I mean media.
Ah yes, social media, the place where healthy and productive conversations go to die.
If you are tired, frustrated and/or annoyed with your Facebook newsfeed, I have some good news for you.
I welcome you to join me as we enter Steve’s Emporium of Internet Delights. My best friend and husband, Steve, has been the driving force behind what I’m about to share with you and I have been a behind-the-scenes contributor and co-administrator to these shenanigans.
To revitalize your Facebook experience, I encourage you to check out the Groups.
The well run, upbeat Facebook groups are where it’s at if you are looking for a positive, entertaining and creative place to let loose.
Steve has created six lively Facebook groups that are cheerful, happy islands for people around the world. These communities are relatively small and have active, spirited participation. Though the groups are lightly moderated with minimal rules from the admins, rude, intolerant or aggressive behavior is rarely, if ever, seen.
Below are the six zany groups that we shepherd:
Ernie’s Oasis– Started in 2016 as Ernie’s Fake News, this group is my all-time favorite and features the ongoing antics and silly stories of our adorable hedgehog Ernie (see photo above). This humorous site is truly a happy-place getaway for many people.
Dysfunctional Communicators– This newly formed group takes satire, sarcasm and word play to a new level. Here the admins leverage their Toastmaster experience to assist with communication challenges.
Lame-0’s– A cross between Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Beavis and Butthead. Serious adults need not apply.
We Are Not Aliens From Outer Space– Out of this world photos and discussions of other galaxies.
Run Away and Join the Circus– A free-wheeling group with escapist themes.
The Reasons Why We Are Leaving This Group– A never ending list of reasons why people are exiting stage right.
If you are craving light-hearted banter, productive dialogues, satire, unusual angles, great photos and fun stories with witty wordplay in a tolerant, supportive environment, these Facebook groups and others like them are the place for you.
Come have a marvelous time in the positive Facebook universe where you get some relief from the stress and strife of tedious newsfeeds.
Ernie is waiting for you with a big cookie and a smile!
There are also various animals to help you be a better communicator.