I remember one of the first times I was in front of a large audience. I was 17-years-old and I was terrified. I was shy and introverted in high school, unless I was playing a sport – I was never shy there. My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing, but there was also a sense of comfort. I trusted my content because the content involved stories that made my speech flow. I was able to speak from my heart, connect with the audience, which then allowed me to let go and trust the rest of the speech to unfold.

I’ve always practiced extremely hard for the speeches I give – I rehearse and rehearse. Even if I rehearse for months, I still always feel nervous (sweaty palms and all) before getting on stage because I always share a part of myself on stage, which is always scary. Once I open my mouth and share from my heart, then all of the nerves wash away.

After 20 years of speaking, I have seen time and time again (whether I am speaking or listening to someone else speak), and nothing opens up a speaker or an audience member more than storytelling. What presenters don’t realize is that personal stories don’t have to take up an entire speech. They can be short, but they must be impactful, relevant, and placed properly into a presentation.

Here are a few tips to make your next speech of presentation more notable:

  • Begin with a personal story to draw your audience in. While your accomplishments and certifications are of value, they do not need to be at the forefront. YOU need to be at the forefront – those things can come later. A personal story helps your audience understand why they should listen to you, and you want to grab their attention from the get-go.

  • Insert an “I believe” statement at some point in your speech. People want to know what make you tick and why you are who you are. This gives them a chance to be a part of your story and join you on it. Here are a few examples: I believe that storytelling changes the world. OR I believe in the best of people. There are so many routes you can take with this. Just make sure it comes from your core and that you truly believe it.

  • Lastly, find a way to add in any lessons you’ve learned over the years. If they pertain to a story you’ve told or if they have been lessons learned from your life. It doesn’t matter, we all like to hear how someone else has moved through this life so that we can take notes and use them for our own lives.

Remember, these tips can be used in any kind of speech or presentation (it could be a sales pitch or an hour-long keynote). I know it’s scary to get personal in front of people you may or may not know but you control how personal you want to get. Vulnerability elicits connection – and we all crave connection. You’ve got this!

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One of my fears when we thought about having a baby was the kind of daycare she would receive. Most options here are church based, but churches haven't always been a welcoming and accepting place for me or my family.

I stayed home with Merit initially because I wanted to. I have been doing so until this past January when it was clear that she needed more than just me. We found an amazing home day care that she has loved and thrived in. The woman who has been caring for Merit, so I could dive back into my work, is moving.

So, we had to begin our search again. And because nothing is available around here, we have had to give the church daycare options a chance. Merit needs to be challenged and socially active. When we drove up for a tour today to one of the daycares, the thought crossed my mind that Clare and I shouldn't tell them we are married. As quickly as thought came in - it went out when I asked myself, "Who do I want to be in this situation?" Authentic - even if it means rejection.

Upon arrival, one of the teachers asked Clare if she was Merit's grandmother (she gets that all the time), and Clare said no, I am her other mom. The woman laughed and apologized, bent down towards Merit and said, "You are so lucky to have two moms."

My fears linger today because they have been so much a part of my experience. But then I remember that I am secure in myself - and that I can handle rejection when it happens. I have seen enough and been through enough to know that anyone's lack of acceptance towards me isn't about me. Plus, I love me - I don't need anyone else's acceptance. It's so easy to revert to our past traumas and one of my favorite tools to use to kick me back into the present is to ask myself, "Who do I want to be in this moment?" It always helps redirect me.

I am grateful for today's experience. It opened my heart, and that's what life is about. My sweet and precious child will be in good hands. #lifewithmerit #whodoyouwanttobe

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“No!” Merit stood as far away from me as possible and didn’t want me to come near her. We were at Ryder’s baseball game and she wanted to play with the big kids. Mama was cramping her style. Any time I would take a step towards her, she’d yell louder, “No!!” I rolled with it and gave her some space.

This was the first time that playing with mama wasn’t cool. At almost 2.5 years old…I wasn’t quite ready for this. But, then again, are we ever really ready for the rapid changes our children go through? They go from being a baby to a toddager overnight.

While I was beaming with pride for her insistence to be independent, the other part of me was missing my baby girl. And so goes the journey of motherhood – constant letting go every. single. day. Sometimes they curl into your chest and won’t let go and other moments they push you away because they want to do everything on their own.

Motherhood has made me raw. And vulnerable. And has made me grow up.

I am so thankful that Merit has enough confidence in herself and the courage to put herself out there on her own terms and in the way she wants to. I am glad she doesn’t need me to feel safe all of the time.

I kept gazing my eyes over to check on her and my presence was near. I’ve always said that I want her to feel held and free. That’s the way my mom always made me feel even when so much of letting me be myself was hard for her.

On our way home from the ballpark, I watched Merit go to sleep in her car-seat. She didn’t want me touching her, but she wanted me next to her. As her eyes got heavy and as she slowly started fading, I had one of those moments. One of those moments when you feel all of the feelings about w

hat has been and what is now.

The beauty of it all is overwhelming. As I relished the moment of watching her peacefully go to sleep, I moved a piece of her hair from her face to behind her ear, and my eyes swelled with tears.

Watching your child grow up is breathtaking. My hope is to stay present with her and accept her as she is and as she grows. I haven’t been perfect. I won’t be perfect. But I will always love her more than she will ever know. #lifewithmerit #motherhood #mamamoments #change

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