I had the honour of being one of the speakers at PRESS Juice's "MOTIVATE+" event at the Ham Yard Hotel in aid of MIND yesterday. Sharing the stage with distinguished sports stars - Boxer, Cathy Brown; Rugby stars, Tom & Max Evans, Yoga and Food guru Julie Montagu, and LBC's "naughty Mary Poppins" sex and relationship therapist, Lucy Beresford - all of whom had inspiring (and at times heartbreaking) life experiences to speak of - is something I will treasure for a very long time.
It is also something, prior to the event, which worried me for a long time!
My life story - as I explained to the audience, was rather more simple. I was born. I did a ton of exams. I now teach emotional agility to organisations.
I am not going to be the inspiring part of any evening as one would normally expect it.
As a speaker I know what's expected of speakers. Most commonly - it's personal stories.
Now, I've had a very "#blessed" life. I'm seriously not belittling it, but I know I've been incredibly lucky...so I don't have stories - at least not those that are going to inspire. So I have to do something different. I rely instead on metaphor. (Recently - I have been known to throw (emoji) poo at a desktop fan)
Given that I was bursting some myths, I thought balloons may work...but better still...Unicorns balloons!
A quick facebook poll didn't quite give me the answer I was hoping for - it was a bit like Marmite. Some loved it, others wanted to report me to the RSPCU. As it turned out, I couldn't buy round foil balloons anyway, so the unicorns were about my only option - and I figured I'd just tell the audience not to name them!!
They went down (literally too) an absolute treat.
"Hard work always brings big results" - Myth busted - SMART work (and even then only when you adapt to the change) does. Unicorn down.
"I must do it alone" - Myth busted - yes of course you are the only person who can take the final action, but help is out there - just be discerning with whose you choose. Help is a pick and mix, not something you need to take...but the more choices you have the more likely you'll find one that works for you. Unicorn down.
"When I achieve my goal I will be happy" - Myth busted - happiness is not a "goal". Why wait? Choose happiness right now - and when you achieve your goal feel happy then too!! Unicorn down.
After the presentation I was asked by someone whether I "brought unicorns to every talk" - and then said she loved the visual content of actually taking a pin and bursting conventionally held beliefs (it's always a relief when people take away more than your gimmick), and others were using the concept to talk about what unicorns had been holding them back and which they were going to pop.
So much of what I talk about when training focuses on making our unconsious drives conscious, and many times challening them - and it's wonderful when a metaphor can really capture someone and help them towards taking action.
But also, I popped my own unicorn too. It's always scary doing something that is outside convention - but I know my method works. I'm not like other speakers - so rather than trying to imitate (which I have done in the past), I played to my own strengths - creativity and being a little off kilter - and did it with confidence and ownership.
This "Marmite" approach can seem daring, but in both cases it is memorable as part of your uniqueness, and more importantly, delivers your words with impact.
If you think you've got something good but are afraid it may not work - write that fear on your unicorn balloon and aim to pop it.