You’re standing on stage. Alone. You can just make out the silhouettes of the people sitting in the audience. Mostly women. In the back of the room, cameras are trained on you. Everyone is waiting. You take a deep breath. You have 12 minutes to give what may be the most transformative speech of your life. No notes. No PowerPoint. No clock. Just you.
That’s the challenge that I and 31 other women have faced since San Diego-based Connected Women of Influence (CWI) launched the SUE Talks in the Fall of 2015. CWI has been helping to advance and elevate professional women since 2008. This powerhouse association has grown from 12 to over 200 members, and offers a diversity of programs and events like Executive Roundtables, the Women Lead Institute, Women Lead Radio, the Women of Influence Awards, and Women Lead Magazine.
The idea for SUE Talks began as a flash of inspiration. CWI Co-Founder Michelle Bergquist and SUE Talks Co-Founder Deanna Potter were chatting about more ways that CWI could help professional women share their stories. “Why don’t we host a series of short talks by women who want to share their professional journeys and the lessons they have learned?” they thought.
From that conversation the SUE Talks were born. SUE stands for Successful, Unstoppable, Empowering women. Some of the presenters are professional speakers like me. (You can watch my SUE Talk here.) Others had never been on stage before. But all SUE Talkers are women sharing deeply personal stories and demonstrating the power of authenticity. Here’s a sampler:
1. Dear World, by Erika De La Cruz
In “Dear World,” Erika De La Cruz shares the story of losing everything in life that was dear to her at a young age. With the help of college friends and a poignant gift that she received from a shocking flea market purchase, De La Cruz learned a pivotal lesson. Every day, we get the chance to determine what is valuable to us and the value that we will bring to the world. Every day, we get a chance to write a letter that begins with “Dear World.”
2. Adversity is a Slingshot, by Lyena Strelkoff
“1.2 seconds. That’s how long it takes a woman to fall 25 feet. It’s also how long it takes to turn a life into gold.” That’s how Lyena Strelkoff, a former dancer, begins the story of how a fall from a tree while on a date in 2002 turned her into a paraplegic. In “Adversity is a Slingshot,” Strelkoff shares the surprises she faced when dealing with paralysis, including the biggest surprise of all – how much better it made her life.
3. I am That Woman, by Bethany Kelly
In this funny and warm SUE Talk, Bethany Kelly shares that although she is the textbook definition of survivor, the word survivor doesn’t work for her. Instead, she chooses to practice “aliveness.” She explains, “survivor is a fact over which I have no control. Aliveness is a state of being which I can choose.” Kelly’s journey to aliveness took her from simply existing to becoming her own champion and starting a thriving publishing company.
4. Your Biggest Breakthrough is Born at Rock Bottom, by Jessica Joy Reveles
“The room goes dark, but not quiet. Many of the children are my son’s age. Some whimper and whine and others cry out loudly. I shut my eyes tight, a futile attempt to fall asleep that first night . . . “ With quiet grace, Jessica Joy Reveles walks us through her journey from homelessness (twice) to success. She reminds us that it’s “when we’re at our lowest that the most primal instinct in us sparks the will to survive.”
5. Your Ego, by Sylvia Becker-Hill
In “Your Ego,” Sylvia Becker-Hill takes us on a 2,000-year journey dating back to ancient Egypt and the birth of “Cleopatra’s curse,” which still haunts women in business today. Because of Cleopatra’s curse, the pain of unrealized potential is shared by millions of women worldwide. In this haunting SUE Talk, Becker-Hill shares her powerful ritual of how to rewire our brains, break Cleopatra’s curse, and enjoy being SUE – successful, unstoppable, and empowered.
This year, CWI is hosting four more incredible evenings of SUE Talks. Click these links if you are inspired be a SUE Talk presenter, sponsor or register for SUE Talks, or want to watch more SUE Talk videos. We all have challenges and setbacks. SUE Talks remind us not to let our setbacks define us, but to use them as a springboard to reach our full potential.
Question: If you were challenged to give a 12-minute speech about your professional journey, what lessons would you share?
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