I’m excited to prepare for February and this year isn’t quite over yet! I’ll deliver a message to teens: ‘Real Substance Leads to Real Style.’ Just last week, student and faculty members of a high school approached me to address its 2600 students. Over the coming weeks, I’ll formulate the talk’s content and format. It’s quite an honor – a major responsibility and a dream – to reach out to teenagers, especially to address so many students all at once. My goal is to make it impactful for the students. And, I want to ensure that it’s easy to deliver.
So, my speaking strategy is to prepare the talk as if I were with just one person. It’s a strategy I employ with my executive talks, however to smaller crowds: How Personal Style Transforms| Seminars & Workshops. It’s extremely important to create intimacy when addressing any group – never mind 1300 students at a time. And, a talk that I’ll give twice in two hours.
Looking back on my teenage years, I remember being hard to please, for whatever the reasons. So, if I think through how to connect with just one teenager, let alone 1300, or 2600…what could go wrong?
I laugh while writing this because it’s perfectly clear that everything could tank.
To be honest, I’ve never addressed an audience this large before. And, I expect to encounter two tough crowds. So, I’m definitely feeling the gravity of the situation. This kind of opportunity awakens an energy from within that counters my naturally introverted and soft-spoken self.
I have a good hook for these teens. Real Substance Leads to Real Style. It’s a fact, one I often use with my professional clients. And, I’m going to reel them in by demonstrating it from the outside in, and from the inside out. Vulnerability and honesty, and telling the deep truth – the kind that makes people connect with a stranger. This defines the rawness I have to show up with. And the ability to feel it in two repeated talks, to stand tall in order to lift everyone up.
I believe the school representatives want me to speak to the student body because they find my personal story compelling. By sharing how my early life was very difficult, students who can easily relate will feel drawn in quickly. In fact, by openly sharing elements of my story with my professional clients, they feel disarmed and open up to me. As a result, they often comment on my empathy and trust me with their personal situations in our consulting sessions.
I will ask everyone to privately be honest within themselves because everyone at that age struggles, even if silently (even adults, no matter how successful, struggle at times). Just like with my professional clients, I want to create a safe and comfortable environment for everyone to feel whatever comes up for them. And for me to feel whatever comes up for me. That makes us even. For this talk, I want to appeal to the teens as more of an adult peer, and reach them at their level.
The turnaround part of the story excites me. Sharing stories about taking chances, growing and learning, finding success, and defining a sense of self, could be quite powerful. This is intrinsic to my basic philosophy of personal style consulting. It’s how I came to learn the very theme of this talk that Real Substance Leads to Real Style. And, I don’t limit style to fashion and personal style. It’s how I aspired to have my kind of lifestyle. How I fill it with art, food, travel, dear family and friends, and fulfilling work.
I expect that this will be an emotional experience for me, and that is okay. I already feel great joy to fearlessly stand with raw vulnerability in front of these audiences. That unto itself is a part of my style. If I can inspire one teenager in those audiences, I may just reach them all.
The invitation from the high school came at a fortuitous moment because I just finalized a website page, “STYLE SEMINARS.” The page is dedicated to four talks now offered on How Personal Style Transforms. I strongly believe personal style transforms and is a basic premise of my philosophy. Three of the talks are for businesses and professional organizations. The fourth talk is directed to teenagers at schools about my stance against bullying.
I’ll certainly address the topic of bullying in this upcoming talk. But, this will be a different kind of talk than any I’ve ever had with an audience. I’m excited to fill the time meaningfully, actively engage their minds, exchange empathy with these teenagers in hope that it will rise us all up in more constructive communication.