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Contributed by Marina Byezhanova, an EO Canada Bridge member in Montreal and the founder of Brand of a Leader, a personal branding agency that builds and scales the personal brands of entrepreneurs who inspire and make an impact.
In October 2021, after months of anticipation, I was finally sitting in San Diego in a room of 30 entrepreneurs, who gathered both in person and virtually to spend five full days learning how to become world-class public speakers.
I felt both exhilarated and nervous at the same time. I had been waiting to work on my public speaking skills, but this was so intimidating. Would I be asked to do improv speaking in front of others? Was I going to embarrass myself? Was I ready to do this?
I was at Global Speakers Academy, the newest addition to EO’s executive education programme offering. GSA launched in the spring of 2021 with the first cohort gathering in Miami, Florida. I was eager to apply for the programme as soon as I heard about it, but the pandemic made travel from Canada challenging, and I was keen to attend in person. Begrudgingly, I waited for the borders to fully re-open and for my opportunity to participate.
Once the first cohort completed their GSA training in March of 2021, EO’s social media exploded—experience shares about #EOGSA2021 were FOMO-inducing and solidified my desire to be a part of the next cohort. I applied in the summer, was accepted, and thus my journey began.
In true EO style, we were pushed out of our comfort zones, exposed to so much learning that it felt akin to drinking from a firehose, and felt challenged every step of the way. But we also felt supported every step of the way. What space can possibly feel safer than a room of EOers cheering each other on, practicing, learning and growing together? Talk about “instimacy”—we had it from the moment we stepped into the room.
So, what can you expect when you apply to join GSA? Here are my seven suggestions to make the most of your experience:
Do your homework before attending. As soon as you are accepted into the programme, you will receive access to videos to watch in advance of your arrival and some homework to complete. Trust me: You will feel much more prepared if you do complete it. Spend time thinking of the most impactful and meaningful stories of your life. You will be working on the opening story of your talk throughout the five days, so prepare for it.
Plan to immerse yourself in the GSA experience. Our cohort lived and breathed writing, practicing, and perfecting our signature talks not only throughout the 8:30am to 5pm classroom time, but also during breakfast, at lunch, and over dinner. I put my involvement in my businesses on hold for the five days of GSA, and I’m so glad that I did. The experience is truly immersive, and you will get the most out of it if your focus is not fragmented.
Maximize GSA coach interactions outside of classroom hours. Our main coach was Pat Quinn, Chief Product Officer of Advance Your Reach, and a speaking coach to Daymond John, Tony Robbins, Sara Blakeley and many others. He had three coaches helping him, including Renee Marino—a Broadway and television star (and my personal favorite!). The coaches are all available for one-on-one work with you. Take advantage of it—they are amazing and truly care about your success!
Let go of your self-limiting beliefs. Our cohort included people who had done a fair bit of public speaking. It also had introverts with no ambition to speak on big stages who wanted to become better communicators to their teams. And guess what? We all felt on an equal playing field, all struggled and also all won together. The environment of support and encouragement created by the coaches and further amplified by EOers was nothing short of incredible. The relationships we built will last a lifetime.
Trust the process. The first two days are so intense in learning, writing and practicing that it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. But we were told to trust the process and the structure of the programme that would see us through it and help us all emerge as more confident speakers. In addition to writing our signature talks, we also learned best practices around body language, leveraging the right visuals, creating handouts, establishing trust, optimizing the Q&A period, and so much more.
Practice, practice, practice. GSA encourages all participants to offer themselves as speakers to EO Forums and chapters across the world as soon as we complete the programme. It is an opportunity to make an impact within the entrepreneurial community and to share our expertise. For a list of GSA Certified Speakers, email EO’s Virtual Learning team: firstname.lastname@example.org
Take the plunge, apply, and you will no doubt be happy that you did. As Pat Quinn said, “If you wait until you’re ready, you’ve already waited too long.” And isn’t it true in everything else we do?
I will leave you with this.
GSA was made for you if any of these statements apply to you:
You are an experienced speaker and are looking to up your game with a high-impact signature talk.
You have dabbled into public speaking but need a lot of direction and want to be taught by the best in the game.
You would rather skydive than speak in public, as you will walk away feeling more confident and ready to continue honing your public speaking skills.
GSA was made for you.
Interested in what GSA participants say about the programme? Search the hashtag #EOGSA2021 on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.
Interested in applying? The next GSA is tentatively scheduled for May 2022. Applications are tentatively scheduled to be due in February 2022. Watch for updates and details!
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