By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
Sometimes people are compelled to “reinvent” themselves in life. You know, take the road not taken, march to a different drummer. Okay, enough with the cliches.
(Rest assured: The PRDude has no plans to leave the profession, unless of course, Hollywood wants to make a feature film about my life and career.)
Today, I’d like to introduce you to Dale J. Spencer, a successful mortgage broker and public speaker who just launched a new company, Dale J. Spencer, Inc., to accelerate his public speaking services to deliver a message – “Fear Not” – to motivate and inspire people, from high school-aged students through seasoned businessmen and women.
Spencer’s life changed in 1988 when he sustained a spinal-chord injury while a student at Northern Illinois University. While building his financial services career, Spencer began delivering presentations. Today, he’s a highly sought-after speaker for audiences nationwide.
Here’s Part I of an edited conversation with Mr. Spencer. (In the full disclosure department, I prepared and distributed a news release announcing the formation of Dale J. Spencer, Inc.) Along with offering keen insight, Mr. Spencer demonstrates a wicked wit.
1. What factors prompted you to make the decision to transition from your successful career in the mortgage industry to public speaking and the “Fear Not” message?
The “Fear Not” message has been a guiding principal for me ever sense my injury. It has been part of my message the past 20 years that I have been speaking. I firmly believe that I can help people who are either making bad decisions based on fear or are paralyzed by fear and unable to make any decision. The best way to do that is to reach more audiences. The only way to do that is to increase my speaking engagements. Fear is something that affects people of all ages, and I want to reach people of all ages, up til now, that majority of my speaking has been to school aged children, and that’s incredibly important. But they are by no means the only ones negatively affected by fear. My decision is really based on my desire to reach a broader audience.
2. What kind of research do you conduct and what visual aids do you employ to deliver a more effective presentation?
I interview a lot of people about fears impact on their lives both personally and professionally. I have also done a fair amount of research into the nature of fear and its components. I use images of various emotions, situations and outcomes to illustrate the variety of fears and the multitude of ways fear enters of daily lives. I also provide a little workbook that audience members can fill in to help the message resonate with them after the presentation is over. Music is another method I use to help paint the emotional picture
3. How do you “read” an audience to determine if your message is coming across? What signs/body language to you look out for?
Well, if they are awake, that’s always a good sign. Actually, if I don’t see the glow of a phone or iPad, that’s generally a good sign. Also during the question and answer section the quality of questions really lets me know if I have reached the audience in a real and meaningful way. The audience talking amongst themselves, or crossed arms are also a red flag that I am not being as impactful as I might be, so I try to step up my game and do something unexpected to get the audience re-engaged
4. You’ve given hundreds of presentations over the past 18 years. Do any stand out as being special or significant?
First of all, I don’t appreciate your slight about my being vertically challenged. Now to your question about the most memorable presentation, that would have to be when I spoke to the Advocate Society of Trauma Nurses. That one meant a lot to me because I felt like I was paying it forward to their next paralyzed patient. I was able to help them understand what the guy laying in the bed, whose entire life had just been irrevocably changed was going through, and what little things they could do to help make things just a little less scary and terrible.
5. You also have produced some independent films. Can you please share some insight as to the nature and subject matter?
I know it sounds kind of random: “oh, and I also produced some independent films”. Actually, when you know the order of events, it makes perfect sense. Here’s what happened: A fraternity brother and I wanted to bring unique stories to a broad audience. Along the way, The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation offered a grant for an educational film and for a training film for speakers across the country. So, we submitted the applications and we were awarded the grants. We made one award-winning film that is still used today in high schools across the nation by the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation. We made a second film that trains speakers in the art of presenting in an educational yet compassionate way that reaches high school audiences. That film is also still used by ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation.
Watch for Part II of this conversation soon. Do you have any “life reinvention” stories to share?