Well my friends, it has been a little bit since I posted. I want to be very frank and honest with you about why. I really do enjoy being able to share some of myself with you, and the fact that it is so personal means that it takes time for me to prepare myself in order to do so. All that really means is that when life gets busy all on its own, there simply isn’t time for this kind of writing. I could write something that isn’t personal, but that isn’t what this blog is all about. So, I wont do that 😊
Anyway, preparation time is really what I want to talk about in this post. This might seem like a weird thing to write a post about, but I know several of our followers and supporters do public speaking or make arrangements for individuals with lived experiences to speak at events. And, many have expressed to me that they also have to navigate preparation time for presentations and speaking events, and it is a struggle. So, here it goes…
As many of you know, in addition to many other hats that I wear, I am an inspirational speaker. I speak to educate, motivate, and inspire, at least a few times a month. These speaking engagements are often over very heavy and personal topics, topics like the long lasting impact of complex trauma, my own lived experiences, the reality of human trafficking, et cetera. Because I am my booking agent, my presentation writer, my administrative assistant, and my travel agent, I spend hours in preparation for each time I speak.
But. When I am negotiating or arranging compensation for speaking engagements, I am often asked why I ask for compensation for preparation time. Now, I could simply have a flat rate and call it a day. However, often compensation comes from grant funding, and if any of you are familiar with grant funding for training and conferences, you know there’s a lot of limitations on compensation. Which, of course, is a whole other topic that I wont derail this post with. Anyway, the most common times I get this question is when I am being asked to participate in a panel, or in a filmed interview. And after I get over my initial defensive internal response, I realize that there is a misunderstanding and the requester really doesn’t know what goes into getting ready for events and that compensation is necessary.
So I have to go back and explain that when I ask for preparation time, I am asking to be compensated for the time that I need to set aside so I can focus and outline what I will say. I have to explain that while there are things that I talk about regularly, I need to review my outline to make sure it is current and tailor some of it for their particular audience. If they are requesting something specialized, I need time to ensure I am able to follow through on their specific request. If they are asking to film something, they are really asking to use my work over and over again, and that isn’t fair to me to be asked to do so without additional compensation. I explain rehearsal takes time, and so does preparing materials and setting up. I explain that travel also takes time, and outside of a certain travel radius, there is an expectation that travel time will also be compensated.
What I don’t tell them, and what I don’t currently charge for, is that it takes double that time to prepare my inner self to navigate the whole process.
It takes time to put my safety net in place so I can speak the truth from a healthy head space. Time to prepare for the well-intentioned but extremely inappropriate comments and questions, the comparisons and conspiracy theories, the handshakes with tears, the hugs from complete strangers who don’t ask. Time to plan for how I will help educate the audience on how to respond, not just to me, but also to all of the people they know and love who come to mind when I am speaking. Time to make sure that it feels natural, that my authentic self is ready to show up. Time to check gut reactions to content and figure out ways to work through the tough parts without coming unglued. It takes time to check in with myself, to make sure I am okay, to make plans for how to handle things when I am not okay or am struggling.
And then…there’s the aftermath.
After speaking, I need time also, and I don’t charge for that either… Time to check in with my support system, time to laugh and talk about something entirely different so my brain can work its way out of an amygdala attack. Time alone to write or speak aloud so I can get out the things I couldn’t say in response to the questions that are invasive or insensitive, or the things I couldn’t say in response to the sticky-sweet and icky sympathy and savior complex comments. Time to get my energy out, in the garden, on the treadmill or walking trails, on the canvas or a physical project, so I can let go of the creepy feelings that come with unsolicited (and often nonconsensual or coerced) hugs and tears or in-your-face comments and accusations. Time to realign with my values and intentions, time to let the fire return to the thin blue flame instead of the raging inferno. Time to honor the pain that comes with the inevitable disclosures from audience members who are coming to realize that my story is their story too. Time to balance my energy so I can return to my family without the extra baggage, time to be with my family and remind myself that I am surrounded by love. Time to remind myself that I am able to love, and enjoy, my family and my life. Time to return to stasis and be able to engage with my family the way my heart wants.
Much like it takes time and discipline to be an Olympic level athlete, it takes time and discipline to be the healthiest version of myself. And I think that is probably the part that is the hardest to explain when navigating compensation for events where I am being asked to educate, inspire, motivate people towards a positive endeavor.
It isn’t as effortless as it looks, and the time and expertise I bring to the stage has value far beyond any compensation I may ask for.
It can be incredibly helpful for those who are looking for an inspirational speaker to know what goes into the process. Because we don’t often talk about this part, and we don’t often allow people to see the ins and outs of what we do, most people are simply unaware of what it takes.
SO, for those of you who walk in my shoes, I tip my hat to you. We are in this together, and I would love to hear your thoughts and any solutions that you might have to navigating these things.
Those of you who walk alongside, thank you for listening, for considering, and for learning. You are a valuable part of this journey I am on, and I am grateful for your willingness to challenge me and your openness to admitting and learning from mistakes.
That’s all for today!
Until next time,