Blogger and motivational speaker Glenda Watson Hyatt, who has a speech impairment, shares her post on how she became a motivational speaker.
While sitting at the airport gate last July, waiting to board the plane to San Jose, where I was scheduled to deliver two presentations on web accessibility, I wondered: “How did I, an individual with significant speech impairment and a physical disability, get here?”
I thought back to a brief session that mom and I had with the guidance counsellor at high school. Thumbing through the various university calendars and brochures, the Certified General Accountant program sounded somewhat appealing. I was good at math and I could take the courses via correspondence. That was the extent of my career planning.
I subsequently did one year of the two-year program, but I slowly realised that I wanted more in life; something more than sitting alone in my bedroom, working on boring accounting assignments. (This was long before the internet and life as I know it today.)
Before finishing the program, I found myself living on my own in a one bedroom apartment at Simon Fraser University. After taking a course or two per term for seven years straight, I eventually graduated with my Bachelor of Arts (BA) with a major in psychology and a minor in communications.
Following a few twists and turns after graduating with my BA, I found myself with the opportunity to give the occasional presentation on accessibility and disability-related topics. However, this was long before the text-to-speech software that I use today was developed, so presentations were participatory, i.e. audience members took turns reading aloud text on the Power Point slides.
When presenting at one local conference, the laptop refused to communicate with the LCD projector. For the thinking-on-my-feet solution, I had attendees come up to the front, one at a time, to read aloud what was on the screen. Now that is a highly participatory session! For my next presentation I prepared acetate sheets for the overhead projector, as a backup plan. But I digress.
Life continued meandering until another twist came in April, 2005. I share this excerpt from my autobiography I’ll Do It Myself:
I was asked by someone who knew me to speak at the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia’s Beyond the Obvious: Exploring the Accessible Community Dialogue. My initial thought was; “I don’t give speeches. I can’t.” But since I was raised without the word can’t in my vocabulary, that fleeing thought quickly turned into “how can I do this”
I had been using the free computer software ReadPlease for a couple of years to proofread my writing. ReadPlease reads aloud text that is copied into the program. I thought that maybe I could put ReadPlease onto my laptop and have it read aloud my speech for me.
So, with a possible solution, I hesitantly agreed to speak. Unsure if the technology would work, I took a printed copy of the speech with me, in case I needed someone else to read it on my behalf.
Being on stage alone for the first time, with two hundred eyes staring at me, I wanted to run. But, I didn’t. I gave my speech.
When I was done, I left the stage, trembling. I had given my first ever speech. And the technology worked!
Afterwards something amazing happened. For the rest of the day people actually came up to me and spoke to me. I was heard for the first time. I was no longer invisible, no longer silent. It was an amazing, unexplainable feeling that I wanted to experience again.
Since that moment I have delivered several more presentations. Each time I was heard again, an experience that has yet to get old for me.
So, how did I get here?
By taking the less travelled road. For an individual with a significant speech impairment, being a motivational speaker is not the most obvious career choice. By taking a deep breath, believing in myself and saying “yes, I can” helped to push me forward.
By figuring out the technology, with much assistance and support from my husband Darrell, I found a way to make it possible.
By surrounding myself with people who will not let me fail. People who see beyond my disability and push me to become all that I can be.
In a snapshot, that is how I ended up waiting for a flight to San Jose. And, to be honest, that is how I hope to get to visit more places and to deliver many more presentations.
By following along this path less travelled to be a motivational speaker, my intention is to encourage, entice, and motivate you to move forward, to go for it, to strive for your potential and to live life more fully.
By Glenda Watson Hyatt
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