Give yourself permission

by Doug Stevenson 2002



“Why not go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.”

Mark Twain


STORY THEATER Tip of the Month – Networking = Marketing


If you’re like me, sales and marketing are not your strong suit. You’d prefer to just do your programs and have tons of people hire you on the spot. In a perfect world, you’d have so much referral business that after three speeches, you’d be booked for years to come. Since that’s closer to a Harry Potter fantasy sequence than reality, I’d like to share with you a few of the lessons I’ve learned about how to get booked.

This discussion will be limited to finding new clients.

One solution is to network with people who can hire you. I’ve spent a good deal of time searching for the right place to do this, and the best place that I’ve found is the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).

ASAE is a national association that has state chapters all over the country. The members are mostly decision makers: association executives. I joined my local chapter, the Colorado Society of Association Executives, and asked to be on their program committee.

By networking within my committee, and being involved, I got to know a few people well. They introduced me to other people. This is a model for any group that you join. Don’t be a wallflower, get involved.

I spent the first year with the organization basically being a grunt / worker-bee. I went to committee meetings and pitched in where I could. As a reward for volunteering, I was given a luncheon keynote slot. It was basically a showcase and I took advantage of the opportunity. After the luncheon speech, I got hired by one of the executives for a speech at their annual meeting.

That speech led to five speeches over the years within the Parks and Recreation industry. Four year later, the executive that hired me moved to another association and hired me again for an annual meeting in the utility industry. That booking led to four more keynotes within the utility industry.

Looking back at the early years of my career as a speaker, I can say that joining CSAE, the Colorado Society of Association Executives, was the best move I ever made. It has continued to pay off over the years in bookings. I haven’t been a member for over five years, but the relationships that I made during my two-year committee involvement continue to pay dividends. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking of getting involved again to stimulate some new contacts. I know I’ll get bookings if I put in the time and effort. Call ASAE to find out if there’s a chapter near you.

The American Society of Association Executives – 202-626-2723




You are huge. You are enormous. You are biggie fries! Was that a triple?

I’m not talking about your girth, I’m talking about your mirth. I’m talking about your passion and depth of feeling. Have you given yourself permission to be as large, as powerful and as passionate as you really are? Or are you stuck in content delivery mode?

Many graduates of my retreat have told me that I gave them “permission to be themselves”. I’ve helped them to see that their authentic self, the one who feels deeply and hides it for fear of being judged, is really okay. From that authentic self, new material comes forth. From that authentic self, a new freedom and physical expression is released. In many cases, the power of the person is different from the power of the speaker persona. I don’t know where or when we were told that being who we are is in some way inappropriate or inadequate, but audiences don’t want artifice. They want truth and honesty. We cannot give them truth and honesty in our material, and hide it from them in our persona.

Here is a question for you? Is there any difference between the way you joke around and play in your kitchen with close friends than the way you are with your audience? Do you lose your sense of spontaneity when you step in front of your audience? Do you lose your funny and become more stiff and serious?

If you do, as I have found myself doing on occasion, I would ask you begin the process of bringing your authentic self and your speaker persona closer together. Let your audience see you as you are. Join me in my quest to show up in front of my audiences completely real, vulnerable and powerful as all get out. Content delivery will not suffer. As a matter of fact, your content will be received at a deeper level of understanding because your authentic self and your speaker persona will be congruent.

Give yourself permission to be yourself. Give yourself permission to say what you have been unwilling to say. Give yourself permission to share your most profound stories and know that they are the truth of who you are.

What programs are you doing that are a pain in the ass? Maybe it’s time to let them go. What programs would you like to do, just because? Maybe it’s time to start developing them. If not you, who? If not now, when?

No one ever went to their grave wishing they’d played it safe. For all we know, it could all be over tomorrow. Do it now. Be huge. Be enormous. Give yourself permission to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.


Copyright 2005 by Doug Stevenson. Reprinted with permission. Doug Stevenson is the creator of the Story Theater Method. He is an author, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. Reach Doug at or 800.573.6196