In preparation for his new book, Dr. Thom A. Lisk of Professional Speakers Bureau Int'l, surveyed 100 professional speakers. Each individual was asked to write responses in seven areas. The publisher finally selected responses from twelve of the speakers to be included in Lisk’s book, THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO SUCCESS AS A PROFESSIONAL SPEAKER! Dr. Taylor was one of the twelve selected and her responses follow.


It was my first job after graduating from college—school nurse for a large high school in Utah. The students were so much fun and I loved interacting with them. Over time I began to realize that many students asked me similar questions and I replied to them over and over again. It occurred to me that it would be so much more efficient if I got a group of them together and answered the questions once. However, in terms of prioritization of fear, public speaking was number one in my book; consequently I continued to answer questions one at a time. Later that first year, the school principal asked me to speak at a general assembly about some aspect of health. Because the principal had given me a directive, my options were either to find a way to make the presentation or look for a different job (or so it seemed to me).


At the time, my direct supervisor was a public health nurse, Beatrice McHarg Davis. A woman in her late 50s (although not a public speaker herself), she was one of the most gifted communicators I have ever met. In a nutshell, she told me that people who fear public speaking usually do so because they get caught up in thinking about how others will perceive them and whether or not they will meet the expectations of the listeners (to say nothing of themselves). If you can’t get past that, I later learned, you’ll never be a sought-after, successful dynamic speaker, especially one that is paid to speak.

Greatest Success as a Speaker (So Far)

I had been asked to present a Friday-night keynote for a weekend women’s retreat for which approximately 800 women had registered. Arriving at the venue early, I discovered that more than 1,200 women had already shown up! The program schedule was in disarray and the planner was almost prostrate from stress. The dining room could not accommodate 1,200 women, nor could the meeting room that had been booked. Unexpectedly, I heard myself proposing to the host that we simply divide the women into two groups. I offered to present a keynote for the first group while the second group ate in the dining room, then we would simply exchange places and I would do it all over again. Within 30 minutes, we had everything arranged. Things went unbelievably smoothly, I did a credible job with the keynote, and basically the weekend was saved. My greatest contribution was not in my presentation, but in being willing to brainstorm a last-minute solution with the program planner.

Biggest Career Mistake

I arrived to make a presentation to a large parent-teacher group. The venue turned out to be a huge gymnasium. Spotlights were focused in such a way that I could not see the audience or my presentation across the teleprompter. Sound through the public address system echoed and bounced around the room so that I could hardly hear what I was saying myself. I was too distracted to concentrate on what I wanted to convey and heard myself pausing repeatedly and using fillers (e.g., Ummm … ahhh …), all of which did not meet my standard of excellence. The audience was restless (of course!) and everyone was relieved when the long evening ground to a halt. I learned to always show up early at the speaking venue, even going the day before when feasible, to work with the planning crew and problem-solve in advance to offer the best presentation possible within available resources.

Niche Topics and Markets

The Harvard Business Journal recently published an article entitled “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.” That represents my passion! Brain function research has advanced to the point that we now know how the brain learns best (although not how it learns) and how individuals in every walk of life can be successful by design—as they understand more about brain function and practically apply that information on a daily basis. It is life-changing and so much fun!

One Suggestion for Speakers’ Success

Identify your passion in life and then find a way to share that with others in exciting, practical, and meaningful ways. Do your own personal and professional work with the goal of having every person with whom you come into contact be better off because you touched their lives.

Goals for the Future

In collaboration with another speaker, I have developed a 21-module program entitled Build Your Business by Design. This incorporates many of the strategies I speak about in my presentations but allows individuals to move through the information at their own pace. It is so exciting to be able to take brain-function research and package it in easy-to-understand language so everyone can benefit! I intend to continue speaking regularly and to balance that with more writing.

And books for children that will help them learn simple brain-function concepts and strategies early in life. I think back to what I knew about brain function as a child. Virtually nothing! Not even that every brain is different. Had I know that simple fact I likely would have spent much less time worrying about my seeming to be "different" from others and not "fitting in" as expected of females in my society and culture. Live and learn!

Check out Arlene online at

©Arlene R. Taylor PhD