When I started my blog, Tune into Radio Carly, in December 2009, I never imagined where it would take me.
I created it to develop and distribute my writing and to connect with new people. Three years on, my blog has helped create a very successful side career (I already have a day job in the government) as a writer, speaker and community TV presenter.
My blog could be classed as a lifestyle blog with a difference. I write about food, fashion, live music, (failed) romance and blogging. I also write a lot about what it’s like to live with a chronic illness and visible facial difference – a severe skin condition called Ichthyosis form erythroderma (meaning scaly red skin).
I write about the medical and social challenges of this condition. I also write a little about body image diversity, highlighting the need for people with visible facial differences to be represented more widely in the media. In doing so, I receive emails and comments from many people with similar skin conditions and various chronic illnesses, as well as from people without illnesses, telling me I’ve helped them in some way. I’ve given them information, hope or courage to tell their own story.
Shortly after starting my blog, I submitted some blog posts to a state government-run disability website called DiVine. The editor asked me to write for them, and I’ve since written for Mamamia, ABC’s Ramp Up, The Hoopla and News Limited, plus a number of guest posts on blogs, as well as shared my story with journalists in the mainstream media.
In addition to the writing, I’ve shared my story through speaking.
I started speaking about five years ago at a workplace event for International Day of People with Disability. Speaking in front of colleagues was good for developing my confidence. Mid way through 2010 I auditioned for a role on a disability TV show called No Limits, and I was cast as a presenter. We discuss disability issues on a panel and interview a wide range of people. This has been great because I have learnt a lot about disability issues, culture, history and language, and met some amazing friends.
I really enjoy sharing my story face to face with an audience, and I also believe that because of my appearance, a speech often has greater impact than the written word. Because of my blog, I have an archive of stories to share, and I can draw on these and modify them for various audiences. I speak about living with Ichthyosis – hoping to make people laugh and think, and change their perceptions of people with visibly different appearances. I also speak about blogging and social media.
I have spoken to many audiences including young people at the Royal Children’s Hospital, potential sponsors at a community television event, doctors and genetic counsellors, bloggers, and at the Australian Public Service Commission’s ethics and social media conference
It’s funny how speaking at one event, or being involved in a particular community, can help you get to another.
My contacts in the disability and blogging networks have been fantastic in putting me forward for speaking opportunities – including radio appearances. The lovely Nicole Avery from Planning with Kids asked me to speak at the AusBlogCon in 2011. My good friend and ABC Ramp Up editor Stella Young put me forward for an ABC interview. Members of No Limits asked me to feature in a 15 minute community radio documentary. Just recently, I was filmed for a federal government social media initiative for International Day of People with Disability.
The best speaking opportunities have come from blogging! You can take your blog to the speaking circuit.
I gave a speech at my work about blogging as an effective way of story telling. Someone in the audience was a Girl Guides leader and she asked me to speak at the next Guides meeting. I did, and at that meeting, I met a woman who worked at a disability organisation. She then asked me to speak at her organisation’s youth training event. When I arrived at the event, there were 600 school children that I had to speak in front of.
And in August 2011 I received a tweet from the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR), based at the University of the West of England, in Bristol, UK. They had read a blog post of mine, and shared it with their readers. I checked out their website, was interested in what they do, and contacted them to see how I could work with them. They asked me to review a computer based psychology program about appearance for young people.
Earlier this year some of the CAR team came to Melbourne for a conference and they met me. They asked me to speak at their Appearance Matters conference in Bristol in July 2012. Of course I said yes!! It was such a good experience – I spoke to around 50 academics and doctors, and received great feedback. My speech is here.
My hospital’s dermatology department has been great in helping me get to speak in England, and they too have given me speaking opportunities. I now alternate between patient and speaker, educating dermatologists and geneticists about both the medical and social elements of this condition.
Diversifying from your blog means that you can develop and share your skills in other areas, which in turn could earn you some money. While I don’t work with many PR companies, I feel the writing and speaking opportunities given to me by community groups, hospitals and universities are far more beneficial to my career ambitions.
If you are thinking about taking your blog from the written to spoken word, here are some of my tips:
From little things big things grow
Continue blogging. Your blog is a great resource for content for your speeches, and also for sharing your completed speeches (transcripts and video) with your readers who couldn’t be at your speaking event.
Attend events where you’ll meet bloggers and other people in your interest areas. Share your work on social media – you never know who might discover it. Offer to do speaking in your workplace or local community – your church or a school are good places to start.
Practise your speaking
Attend Toastmasters groups or book into a short course. Practice in front of your family or friends, or even in meetings at work.
I’ve not done Toastmasters, but I did a lot of presentations during my university degrees, and I’m fortunate that through doing community TV, I can watch myself back and find areas where I can improve.
Speak about what you know
As a blogger, you are often an expert in a certain field – parenting, cooking, fashion. As a speaker, I think it’s best to speak about what you know too. It makes for an authentic speech. I feel most confident speaking about myself – my skin condition and blogging. When I write a blog post, I write it how I speak or think. This means my blog posts can often easily be translated into a speech.
Know your audience
You may be speaking about the same topic at all of the events you’re invited to, but your audience demographic will not always be the same. Your content may need to be tailored to suit your audiences. For example, I have used simpler language for children, provided technical explanations for non social media users and covered more strategic content for academics and doctors (I included parts of my Masters thesis for these speeches).
You don’t need to be like an evangelical speaker to have an impact. I recommend you speak clearly, maintain eye contact with your audience, and try to make them think and make them laugh.
In my writing and speaking I am always honest and authentic. I hope not to come across as seeking pity. I am always myself, always realistic, but never sympathy seeking. If I can make someone laugh at a really unfortunate situation that I’ve been faced with, I know I’ve done my job right.
Do you speak because of your blog? What tips do you have for bloggers asked to speak to an audience?
Carly Findlay lives in Melbourne. She’s a blogger and writer, community TV presenter and lover of cooking, live music, fashion and Darren Hayes. Carly blogs here and tweets at @carlyfindlay | Photo credits: Bio photo Camille Condon and Layne Beachley photo by Carol Gibbons Photography.
Editor’s note: I too have been asked to speak many times since starting my blog and my business. The courses that really helped me step up to those keynotes and presentations – and deal with confidence in getting in front of an audience – were the courses run by Carren Smith. Carren – a Bali bombing survivor – has turned her story of survival into one that can help others tell their story. I’m very proud to call her my friend.
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