Public Speaking: Don’t be someone’s inspiration porn

Any motivational speaker, whether they are disabled or not, shouldn’t be wanting to be a group of strangers’ inspiration porn. It’s disgusting and fake, but it is also something that a lot of society just loves to digest.

The sad reality is that a lot of us want to be inspired, often times because we lack the motivation ourselves.. Motivational speaking is a great career to get into; but you don’t just want to be someone who can provide a very powerful and moving message that lasts for about as long as the conference does. And also, just because you’re disabled, doesn’t mean you have a unique story to tell.

After two years of public speaking at several different events specially held for the disability sector, my approach to what I say on stage has changed, and the way I choose to advocate has also changed a lot.

Don’t get me wrong, the last couple of years has provided me with some exciting opportunities. The highlight? Probably speaking in front of New Zealand’s former Prime Minister John Key. Another was the big joint conference between IHC and Workability International… that one really stands out because I was given the freedom to tear the Government a new one.

When I look back at some of my earlier work; a part of me cringes. There was no talk of the issues that affect people with disabilities and their families whatsoever. The majority of it was me talking about my life and what I had been through, finishing off with where I am today.

Yes, parts of that journey may be inspirational for my audience, but an inspirational message doesn’t always create real change. To me, real change is a reaction and it has a direct impact on those who it affects, good or bad.

Quite often, my role at those events is to inspire the audience and deliver a message that left them excited about what we were there for on the day, to believe in our message and ‘buy in’. For me, at the very least, I wanted to see them leave feeling a sense of where the disability sector was heading for those that it means most to; the people with disabilities.

Somewhere along the line I got sick of sharing so much about my journey and the things I’d been through. “Look at me, if I can do it then you can too because look at what I’ve been through”. I didn’t want to do that anymore, I wanted to talk about the issues, and more importantly, put my own spin on them.

To be truly passionate about something, and to really advocate hard for or against it, you’ve got to have that personal touch laid underneath it. It was that same passion that made me unpopular at times, especially with those that I had to answer to at CCS Disability Action. As time went on, we clashed, but I never backed down to anyone, even if I did apologise to their face. My level of outspokenness is no secret, but it wasn’t just a case of me just wanting to ‘go against the grain’ of what the organisation was doing. All of the service providers in New Zealand, including CCS Disability Action, have done a wonderful job using the very little resources they have.

I’m simply saying, we can and should, always be looking at how things can be done better. The formula to doing things better? Make minor tweaks, change areas of focus, have open and honest conversations with all parties, and decide on an end result you’d like to imagine possible. That’s what I put myself through about a year ago when I decided that I wanted to take my advocacy to the next level. ­Hell, some people might argue that I just wanted to become a critic and a loud mouth who likes to bitch and moan about everything that isn’t right with the sector.

I just enjoy talking about the issues that exist. How do I know they exist? They are confirmed to me from the very thing that should be most important to the disability sector; the people and families who are affected by disability in its various forms. They are all just like me, they have an opinion and a viewpoint, it is their right to express that. The responsibility of the organisations within the disability and community sector is to represent that and provide a service that is as diverse as it is flexible.

Why I Can’t Keep Quiet: Part 1

This is PART ONE in a series of “Why I Can’t Keep Quiet” blogs to be published over the next month.

I was on Facebook the other night and a friend messaged me and congratulated me on how I speak my mind about things. He said it takes a lot of strength to speak publicly about what you believe and not be afraid of the backlash.

My friend then suggested I should write a blog about this, and give my readers a bit of an insight into it all. I’ve taken him up on this and will be writing a series of personal, and revealing blogs that hopefully take you a little ‘behind the scenes’.

So to begin, I guess the first question isn’t really a question but a statement.

I am a loud mouth, I speak my feelings, and I am not afraid to talk in a public forum and challenge ideologies that I believe are wrong.

If you know nothing about Mike Pulman, know that. Continue reading Why I Can’t Keep Quiet: Part 1

PERSONAL: Onward & Upwards

July 19th was scheduled to be the biggest day of my career as a public speaker. Speaking in Parliament wasn’t only going to be a massive challenge, but something that I also felt was a huge opportunity for the disability sector. It’s not often that disability and politics get in the same room together, and it’s even more rare that a person living with a disability gets to speak about the issues that matter to them.

As I announced yesterday on Facebook, this opportunity has fallen by the wayside. While I understand that in politics things can change very quickly, and that nothing is ever 100% set in stone, I do feel very frustrated at the late notice and the way in which this was handled.  Continue reading PERSONAL: Onward & Upwards

My Tips For Effective Public Speaking

So you want to be a public speaker? Cool!  Here are just a few tips from me.

When someone from an organisations contacts me and asks if I would be interested in coming along and speaking to their group about my life with a disability, it is always a very humbling experience. The next thing is the question, what on earth am I going to talk about this time?

One of the things that is paramount to me is that I have a rough idea of just who I am speaking too.

I don’t have to know all the people in the audience by name or have solid background on the company they work for, but I like to know why they have come to listen to me on this particular day. Continue reading My Tips For Effective Public Speaking