I love meeting new people but I sometimes hesitate at the oft-asked social ice-breaker question:
“So what do you do, Rachel?”
Not because I don’t have an answer, but because I have at least five at any given time. I suspect I’m one of those people that TED speaker Emilie Wapnick calls “multipotentialites.”
I usually pick one of these answers …
From semester one of undergrad, I have been studying writing and communication. My degree is in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Journalism. If you’ve read my writer page you already know I’m an author. My writing and books have been featured such places as the Huffington Post and Fast Company.
I enjoy all kinds of writing. Academic writing, I’ve published in journals. Feature writing, I’ve published in magazines. Column writing, I’ve published in newsprint. Inspirational writing – I’ve published online, in devotional books, and even in a Bible.
To build an audience and career, you must have a group of people in mind you wish to help, serve or inspire. For me, that began as parents of school-age children, and then shifted quite a few years ago to Christian women. My book topics have centered on the intersection of Christian faith, personal potential and spiritual growth.
Note: When I say to new acquaintances that I’m an author, 97% want to know more. When I say that my books deal with Christian faith, personal focus and spiritual growth, depending on the crowd, I can lose half of them to a tray of h’orderves, or a faked cell phone ring. 🙂
As a communication expert and a published author, I’m commonly invited to speak at events. I’ve also worked through speakers’ bureaus for years.
I have over fifteen years’ experience traveling the country to give keynotes and lead workshops or retreats. Much of my speaking, like my books, centers on the intersection of Christian faith and personal/spiritual growth – but not all of it.
Additional speaking topics center on communication challenges and styles – I help teams of all sizes understand their communication challenges and improve their cohesion and collaboration. I use the Forte Communication Profile when working with groups. It’s amazingly helpful.
I’ve spoken to groups as small as 20 and as large as 2500. Business groups. Faith groups. Women’s Groups. Non-profits.
I’ve also helped other speakers hone their message and delivery. Recently I was an official speakers’ coach at the TEDx event in Wilmington. (Can I just say it was so much fun to have official TED sanctioned credentials? I may or may not have saved my backstage pass with TED’s name and mine for about four months afterward.)
When I answer people’s question based on this aspect of what I do, I say: “I am on a personal mission to end one of the leading causes of death in American gatherings – death by Powerpoint.”
I co-host a weekly radio show called Encouragement Cafe. The show is broadcast on stations up and down the eastern seaboard as well as out in California. It’s even translated into Spanish – by others, because there is no way I could do an entire show in Spanish. I barely habla Espanol.
Like much of my books and professional speaking, this show is targeted to the female Christian audience. My co-host Luann Prater is terrific. She has that classic silky-smooth radio voice, and is one of my favorite people.
When I answer what I do based on the radio aspect of my work I say: “I don’t have a ‘Delilah-like’ voice, but I’m an experienced communicator who – my husband will confirm – will talk extensively if given the chance, so I do some talk-radio.” Sometimes they’ll ask what the show is about, in which case I may be back in the quandary of losing 45% of them to a “bathroom break” or fake text message once I say it’s a Christian-based show for women (smiles).
For nearly two decades I’ve been teaching communication courses at The University of North Carolina in Wilmington (UNCW). My husband and I are both on faculty in the Communication Studies department.
My favorite course to teach is Public Speaking – the students come in petrified and exit my course empowered to speak well. That energizes me.
In addition, I also teach for the Cameron School of Business at UNCW. My course explores creativity and innovation, which is currently a hot topic in business schools. This course resides in the Entrepreneurship Minor and I get a mix of students from across majors on campus. It’s a lot of fun.
When I decide to focus my answer on this aspect of what I do – and it’s the easiest way to answer – I’ll pop an olive in my mouth and say: “I teach UNCW college students about public communication, personal creativity and business innovation.”
I am a trained coach, earning my coaching certification in 2010. So I can life-coach you, productivity-coach you, creativity-coach you, speaking-coach you or writing-coach you. I tend to do all of the above when helping a client position themselves as a leading voice in their field.
I’ve coached scores people in speaking/writing both inside the Christian-market, and outside of it in the entrepreneurial arena. I’ve even coached some through their dissertation writing process. Some I’ve worked with long-term for years, others – more typically – over the course of a few months.
Those closest to me will tell you I sometimes slip into life-coach mode with them. I still remember the first time I heard my daughter say with a mix of indignation and intrigue, “Wait, are you life-coaching me right now?!” (Add a middle school girl’s up-ticking intonation to get the full effect.)
When I answer based on this line of my work I usually just ask what their current biggest communication challenge is right now and explain how I work with people one-one-one to tackle those – be it writing a book, improving their speaking skills, improving their interpersonal connections, or establishing themselves as a leader within their field.
Are you still reading? Props for displaying an impressive online attention span! If you have questions, would like to know more, or would like to work with me, get in touch via my Contact page.