Contributed by Andrea Heuston, an EO US West Bridge chapter member who is a Speaker Coach to leaders at Fortune 100 companies, a best-selling author, and CEO of Artitudes, a full-service design firm specializing in executive presentations, branding and visual marketing.
EO’s next Global Speakers Academy will be held from 23-27 October 2023 in Riviera Pacifica, Panama. Applications are open!
“Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise.” – Denis Waitley
There is nothing more humbling than a teacher becoming a student again. Whenever I find myself facing the opportunity to grow within my current zone of genius, I leap for it.
This is what EO Global Speakers Academy (GSA) was for me: the most impactful experience I’ve had within EO—to my utter joy and some surprise!
As a Speaker Coach with over 20 years of experience, I know what it takes to become a highly effective public speaker. Yet as an EO member, there exists a dichotomy within me: On one hand, a deep level of expertise in and passion for my field (speaker coaching); on another, an unquenchable thirst for learning and a deep love of growth (which, depending on the day, sometimes feels more like impostor syndrome). You might relate.
Like many entrepreneurs, my speaker coaching expertise had an informal start. Colleagues, leaders, friends and members of my network would say things like: “Andrea, you are great at public speaking—can you teach me how to be great, too?”
Originally, I felt unsure: Could I teach someone how to be great on a stage? Is it something innate some of us simply have, or is it a skill that can be learned?
I formalized my knowledge and methodology and since then have had the privilege of working with C-suite leaders from Fortune 100 companies across the globe, shaping each one of them into what I like to call a “superhero.” Over the years, I’ve honed best practices for giving impactful talks, as well as habits and tricks for everything from cadence to body language to content.
In the process, I’ve even been dubbed the “Script Whisperer.”
So when the opportunity to attend GSA presented itself, a five-day program that helps entrepreneurs design their signature talk, I was skeptical at first.
In the spirit of radical candor, I remember asking myself: “What more could I possibly learn on this topic?”
Furthermore, the thought of stepping away from the business for 9+ hours each day for a full week seemed daunting. Yet, every entrepreneur I knew talked at length about working “on” the business rather than “in” it. I could overcome that concern to step away and focus on something bigger for a period of time, couldn’t I?
So, despite my breadth of knowledge and experience at a professional level, I gave GSA a chance—and the results truly took me by surprise.
GSA was an immersive and intense experience—almost like a boot camp. The team of instructors was remarkable (I even had several of them on my podcast as guests long after GSA had wrapped). They had worked with the highest-tier names in business, sports and live entertainment. We were in capable hands.
Still, I felt some uneasiness. Like many (all) entrepreneurs, I don’t do particularly well with being told what to do. Yet, at GSA, the opposite seemed to occur: the material was so fascinating I found myself eager to be coached, to be corrected, to be taught something new and to see myself from an external perspective.
Specifically, here are three things I gained from GSA that every entrepreneur could benefit from:
Confidence is a staircase—one on which we can always climb higher. It is especially true for all individuals, but in the rollercoaster of daily entrepreneurial life, confidence comes at a premium. GSA provided tools each cohort member could use in their daily lives, whether they find themselves in front of five or 500 people. We learned how to not just “speak” to someone but how to truly engage with them on a meaningful level. We left with heightened confidence not only in how we speak but in the value of what we are speaking about and why it matters.
The EO community is unquestionably one of the highlights of our membership, and immersive environments like GSA elevate it to another level entirely. We truly felt like a little family. I felt grateful to have formed relationships with individuals from Canada, the US, Mexico, the UK, and the Middle East—wonderful people I wouldn’t have necessarily met otherwise. When you spend full days in an immersive context sharing some of your most personal stories, vulnerability tends to help form bonds, and these bonds impacted me in a real way. Instamacy, at its deepest. Those connections also offered new perspectives, new insights and new ideas, many of which I could never have seen for myself.
My greatest takeaway from GSA came to me in the form of a good reminder: public speaking is not something solely to be practiced or learned by “public speakers” or those with aspirations to appear on stage. The skills and capabilities we develop by means of speaker training can be applied to our everyday professional lives, whether we have dreams of giving a TED Talk or want to better connect with our teams; whether we need to pitch for new capital raises or want to engage in more networking. Having these transformative storytelling skills can be game-changers for entrepreneurs.
Since GSA, I’ve adopted new skills in both my own keynote talks and my coaching practice for others. I’ve honed in on confidence that will bring greater value not only to my company but to my personal life as well. Yet the residual effect I feel particular gratitude for is the reminder that no matter how deep our expertise, we can always learn something new—and feel genuine joy in the process.