After recently preparing her speech at speaker training, CK DesGrosseilliers shares her story at the City of Markham’s Day of Mourning ceremony in April 2019.

With a training session for new speaker volunteers this weekend, I’ll let you in on a little secret. We know speaker training is anxiety-inducing for the volunteers, but the staff are almost as nervous. We so much want everything to go well – for the volunteers to feel successful; for them to experience healing and make new friends; for some powerful stories to be shared; for there to be enough food (actually never a problem at a Threads of Life event!)

Twelve Threads of Life members will spend the weekend together learning how to change safety cultures by sharing their personal experience. Here’s a glimpse of what they’ll be tackling:

  • Public speaking skills – New volunteers come with a range of experience in public speaking, from those who are trainers or actors in their other life to those who worry they’ll collapse when an audience looks at them. We talk about how to project your voice, manage nerves and tell a good story that people will want to hear.
  • Calls to action – As if sharing their personal experience wasn’t hard enough, our speakers also build in a safety message and a call to action. We believe our speakers’ presentations have greater impact if they ask the audience to respond with some small, specific action – maybe going home and telling one person about the presentation they heard today, or maybe doing a circle check to look for hazards on their own equipment. At training we spend time figuring out what that call to action could be for each speaker.
  • Dealing with anger – People who’ve experienced a tragedy – whether it’s the death of a loved one, a serious injury or an occupational disease – are often understandably angry and frustrated about what happened. We spend time talking about how to use that anger to fuel an energetic speech, rather than communicating bitterness.
  • Self-care and safety – Public speaking is always draining, even more so when you are sharing something deeply personal. Volunteers learn how to prepare for, and recover from a presentation so it contributes to their healing rather than depleting them. As a safety-focused organization, we emphasize the importance of having a safe way to and from each presentation, especially when the volunteer is driving and may feel tired or distracted.

There’s lots more that happens over the course of a weekend. We may all come together as strangers, but at the end of three days, we leave with hugs all around; a new group of Threads of Life volunteer speakers ready to go out and change the world.

Susan Haldane