The other day a colleague said they wanted to get into speaking and presenting at seminars, but had nothing new to say. They were worried that all the “good stuff” had already been said, and so I told them this story:

I’ve been doing Aikido, a martial art, for two decades. Each year, a group of us from my dojo head from Seattle, Washington, to Missoula, Montana to attend a weekend seminar with the head of our organization.

I remember one year, I was still new to Aikido (maybe my second year of practice?) I traveled to this seminar with one of the senior students I admired and enjoyed training with during practice. Like me, Ken was a big guy, but he controlled his power and accepted others’ ability levels. I felt that I could push myself without fear of hurting him, or him hurting me, as we ramped up the energy in our practice. Having practiced for many years, he often had stories or anecdotes that he would tell to emphasize points that we were working on.

When he stopped in the middle of practice with me on our second day of the seminar because I was having trouble throwing him, I eagerly awaited the tidbit of learning that I knew he was coming. “You’re not pointing your center at me,” he said. “Always keep your knot pointed at your partner. Your energy flows from your center, and if your center is not towards your partner, you’re not connected with them.”

My black belt test

I tried it, and it worked! I focused on it throughout the rest of the seminar. The effect was amazing! It was an epiphany that changed my Aikido. I was sure that he had given me the secret to Aikido!

Driving back after the seminar, it was all I could think about. I couldn’t wait until I returned to the dojo on Monday and talked to my sensei about it. I thought about it all day at work and excitedly drove to the dojo after work.

As I walked in, Sensei came out of her office and said, “Hi Paige, How was your weekend? What did you learn at the seminar?” My mind raced as I lined up the story I would tell her. About how pointing your center towards their center creates connection. About how that connection creates the ability to move with, and through your partner. About how a good stance and connection with our partners is foundational to Aikido.

And as I heard myself saying it out loud in my head, I realized it was in her voice.

She had been saying this exact thing to me for the entirety of my practice. She had been telling me to keep my center toward my partner, connect, and move as one.

And I had heard her; I just hadn’t listened fully.

speaking at conference
Photo attribution: Image by master1305 on Freepik

Why is this story important?

I realized that often, we hear people tell us things over and over, but we don’t listen until we connect with the speaker. It could be the way that they are saying it. It could be the words they use. It could be that they look or have the same background as we do.

Whatever the reason, there are people out there that need to hear your story. They need to hear you tell it in your way to connect and learn from it. They need to see you onstage (or online) speaking. And they will walk away thinking, “Wow, that was the secret. I learned something amazing!”

So if you want to get into talking or presenting at conferences, submit one and speak from your perspective because somebody’s waiting to hear you say it.

And when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.