We’ve all heard that old line, that public speaking is everyone’s number one fear. (That and snakes, according to a survey by the Canadian Cancer Society in 2015!) Some people are born storytellers and love the limelight. Others would do almost anything to avoid a podium.
At the Threads of Life speakers bureau, we have volunteers from both extremes, and every point in between. What brings them all together is their passion for health and safety, and their willingness to share their personal story in the hope of preventing future tragedies.
This weekend, 11 new volunteers will be training to tackle that fear of public speaking, and to tell their stories for prevention. We asked a few of our experienced speaker volunteers the best thing about being a member of the Threads of Life speakers bureau. Here’s what they told us:
The best thing for me is the responses from the audience participants. Not a single speaking engagement passes without comments of sincere appreciation for sharing the story but beyond that is the passion behind it to help to make a difference. You can see and feel that these people want to help make things better so incidents like our stories can be prevented in the future. It may only be a few people at a time but we will gain momentum to make change for the better in the future!!
The first time I was asked to think about taking the speaker training I said no, I didn’t think I could do public speaking. The second time it was suggested, I agreed. Taking that training was one of the best decisions I ever made. Doing presentations has given me personal confidence I didn’t think I had. I have been doing presentations for a number of years, and it’s something I really enjoy. The highlight for me is the interaction after my presentation or the question and answers. I highly recommend taking the training. You can do it.
I would say the best part of being a Threads of Life Speaker is being able to engage the audience with my story. I know I have made an impact on them when I see the emotions on their faces … It is always rewarding to have my audience members come up to me after my presentation and say ‘thank you for sharing your story; it was very moving … what can we do to support Threads of Life?’ As a speaker I have amazing ongoing support & skill building from Threads of Life. It offers me the confidence to bring forth awareness of safety in the workplace to our communities. Helping to change lives is the reason I speak for Threads of Life. If one more worker, someone’s spouse, parent, child, brother, or sister comes home safely that day I know I have been successful.
It’s heartwarming when attendees speak with you after your talk and connect with you. Often it’s how they will think twice about safety on the job, which feels good that I’ve touched at least one person.
Being a member of the speaker’s bureau has been a very rewarding experience for me. I particularly have liked being in a classroom setting to communicate the importance of workplace safety to boys – boys who remind me so much of our son, John, especially when they appear in class with their baseball cap on backwards.
Being a speaker for Threads of Life gives meaning to my life. When my father died as a result of a workplace fatality I was lost with no purpose in life. But once I decided to become a speaker and started sharing my story I began to feel alive again. Sharing my father’s story gives meaning to my life. If I can save one life or make one person think twice as a result of my story then my father’s death would not have been in vain. Threads of Life saved my life and volunteering as a speaker allows me to give back a little for what Threads of Life has done for me.
My favourite thing about being a speaker is it gives me an opportunity to tell Kyle’s story and for people to know he was here and he meant so much to his family. I also like to speak in hopes that people really listen and work safe. If I can help one family or more I feel I’ve done a good job.
My favourite thing about being a Threads of Life speaker has been the connection you feel when sharing a personal story about yourself. It’s amazing how the audience is so attentive and respectful. To this day my favourite moment was when I spoke to a small group of construction workers, maybe 10 of them and they all reminded me of my own father and the friendships he used to have at work. It also made me sad that he wasn’t able to experience that anymore. Threads of Life has given me the confidence and pride to speak in front of people while helping me cope with my grief.
I think my favourite part of being a speaker is seeing that moment when someone finally gets it. One of my more recent speaking engagements was at a community college and I walked in knowing that they were only there because they had to be. But as I told my dad’s story I could see them sit a little straighter in their seats. The whispering stopped … and they heard me. They listened to every word I said and I left feeling like I left them with something in the back of their mind to think about every time they go out on a job. I think that’s what makes me continue to tell dads story. Although it will never bring him back if I can just get to one person every time I tell his story I feel like I am making something positive out of a terrible tragedy.
The first time I spoke to anyone I was shaking like a leaf … I looked around at as many eyes as I could. I saw how invested everyone was in wanting to hear what I had to say. I was not only there to share my experience and how my life had forever been changed; but to also send an important message about how one’s life can change in seconds no matter how prepared and ready for the unknown you may think you are…
Until I lost my son Brent, age 22, I never realized how much of my life purpose, my happiness, my future was intertwined with his dreams, his future aspirations. My children give meaning to life itself. With each speaking engagement I felt empowered, having a purpose, a mission, and if only one person out of my audience actually, “GOT the message about the importance of workplace safety and a life is saved, then Brent’s death has not been for nothing. Speaking is validating his life and his death. It has been a good part of my healing and growth through this grief journey. It has given me purpose. One of my greatest engagements was speaking to approximately 300 grade ten students from Rainbow district in Sudbury a few years back. I never expected the over whelming response. They gave me a standing ovation and a few boys came over afterwards and expressed much emotion. Personally, I never thought of or ever dreamed I would be speaking in front of people as I have. But with the power and conviction we have as people who have lost a loved one, you will be amazed at what growth is ahead and the healing you will have from giving a part of yourself, which we do with each event, in memory of your loved one. It is a feel good thing I do in Brent’s memory.
Her background is in journalism, public relations and health and safety.
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