Friday, 28 October 2011

Professional Speakers Association Convention revisited

Sometimes in life you are torn between being in two places at the same time. Why do two events that you want to go to have to be on the same day?

This happened a couple of weeks ago. Regular followers of my blog will know that thanks to my late partner Clive Gott, I had grown to love his rugby league team – Leeds Rhinos. He used to inspire the younger players every year with several sessions and often encouraged them to decide their chosen goals - often this involved playing and winning in a cup final. With this in mind I had taken Dom to Wembley back in July to see them in the Carnegie Cup final. Wigan snatched it from us!

Leeds then went onto rise through the play-offs to be in the final at Old Trafford on October 8th. Should I go?

I was so keen to but it clashed with the Professional Speakers Association Conference at the Hilton hotel in Coventry. It was at this event four years ago that Clive and I had first met. By the following year we had become ‘an item’ and as they say, the rest is history.

Since Clive died many of our speaker colleagues and friends have offered me so much support. It just felt right to be amongst them to thank them but also to be reminded of how I had felt at that first conference – I ‘had come home to kindred spirits’!

So instead of my Rhinos t-shirt I packed my favourite dress from Monsoon (that Clive had taken off a shop dummy for me!) and went to Coventry.

Once in my room I got ready watching the first half of the match on the television. I dread to think what other residents thought of the shouts coming from my room!

I was torn to wander down at half time and then concentrated on fellow speakers instead. The warmth and affection that greeted me was so very touching and much appreciated. I have been feeling much stronger since the middle of September. I do feel that I have turned a corner after the date we would have been coming back from our cruise. The knowledge that my diary is now ‘my’ events and not ‘his/ours’ is a step forward. It still hurts, but perhaps not as much. I still hear him saying ‘it’s happened – deal with it’.

There were some speakers from across the world – some I had met before, for example when I went to the National Speakers Association convention in New York in August 2008 and at other PSA events. Mixing with international speakers is exciting! One, Frank Furness, had been a great inspiration to Clive during his early days as a speaker. I had never met him until this dinner and he spoke kindly of Clive.It was also good to reconnect with Terry Brock from Florida and many others.

Just before we were due to dine our good friend and amazing speaker Geoff Ramm took me to one side to warn me that he would be saying a few words in Clive’s honour after the meal. He didn’t want to upset me. I appreciated the tip off but was delighted that Clive would be ‘there’. I sat with two other 'northern' speakers and good friends  – Paul McGee and Richard McCann.

Clive has left me with some good guys!

I felt really pleased that I had made the decision to come, especially as Rhinos were losing at half time! I was relaxed and soaked up the banter of the evening. 

There were some awards given then Geoff took to the platform to speak about Clive and how he had impacted and encouraged him in his career. None of us pretend that Clive was ‘holier than thou’! He had often ruffled feathers at the PSA but basically because he was so passionate about speaking and spoke his truth. Hearing Geoff speak so beautifully about him had a massive impact on me. I realised I was shaking! I felt so proud of Clive; I felt the respect and sorrow in the room for his passing; I felt I had to respond ….

I am well aware that as I spontaneously took to the ‘international’ stage, some people were worried! Would I be an emotional wreck? Would I go on and on and need dragging off?

I was handed a microphone and simply recalled how Clive and I had met at this event for the first time 4 years ago. The following year he had asked me to spend the rest of his life with him – and I did. I went on to say that Clive always said that what happens to you in life became another seminar story and as such, he has added to mine. I thanked the PSA and its members for their respects paid to Clive and to the support they have given me since he died.

With Clive’s final message of making each day count, I ended my spontaneous talk. I have often been inspired to present from that platform – I never, ever thought that losing Clive would be the reason I first took it. I was then stunned to receive a standing ovation! I stepped down but was prompted back to take my applause. Wow!

I didn’t cry but I know I was shaking. I hoped I had done us both proud.

A text I got the next day from a speaker I have every respect for read,
‘Elaine, you were not merely brilliant on Saturday night. You were utterly magnificent. There were some people in the room who had never even heard of Clive .. who were mesmerised by the memory of someone they soon wished they HAD known.’

Then I cried!

The rest of the evening was fun catching up with people and having a dance! However, the night was made by the fact Leeds Rhinos HAD won the final! Clive would have been so thrilled! Very well done guys!

See more photos here

A few of us stayed up late having a drink and a chat in the lounge area and after a few hours sleep I decided to join an international audience to watch the Rugby world cup. The funny thing was that one of the Australian guys noted that watching the match with speakers resulted in more comments on the commentary than on the play itself! 

I joined in the seminars later that morning and realised that I do want to return to be a member of the PSA as I had initially learnt so much from my attendance and there are still many friends there who I was truly pleased to see.Thank you Paul du Toit for a copy of your book. Last time we had met had been at a dinner for Global Speakers held in the United Nations building in New York. My speaking engagement in Amsterdam earlier this year was cancelled due to industrial action. Perhaps the PSA convention has rekindled my desire to be an international speaker again?

My place at next years convention is already booked.

If you are an aspiring or already a speaker, I recommend you find a meeting in your area and go along. Who knows what it may lead to?

So next time you are caught between deciding on two events I suggest that you ask the following questions...
1. Will you be missed if you don't go (Leeds Rhinos clearly did well without me!!!)
2. What is likely to have the greatest impact for you and for others?
3. What are the pros and cons for both?
4. Which do you feel duty-bound to go to and which do you really want to go to?
5. Are you prepared to live with your decision or will you then live in regret?

On this occasion, although I was disappointed not to be at Old Trafford, I am very pleased I went to PSA - on the other hand I could have stayed in and watched Strictly and X-factor!

I feel that one of the many lessons I have learnt since Clive died is the importance of making an effort and doing something. It would be easier to just stay in and fester; wallow and curse. As you know, I HAVE done that at times, yet I like to feel that Clive would be saying 'You go Princess'.

That first PSA convention I went to Clive presented at, his 'walk-on' music was this ...

How very, very true.

We miss you.

If you would like to hear my new keynote please come along to The Midland Hotel in Bradford on 7th November. Details are here. Please share!

Elaine x

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