Know your topic to ensure credibility is conveyed. Research the information and provide a balance of statistics and first-hand, stories/best practices/lessons learned from your own experience.
Be passionate about your presentation. If the content bores you, then how in the world will you get your audience excited?
Engage your audience. Ask questions; develop worksheets to get their involvement.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dawn F. Landry.
She has spent over half of her 28-year career in Houston’s corporate real estate industry, excelling in business development and marketing leadership positions within the region’s largest economic development organization, as well as international commercial construction companies.
In February 2017, she founded Authentizity, LLC, as an independent B2B growth strategist, speaker, and a Gallup-Certified CliftonStrengths® Coach to provide consulting, training, and coaching services that optimize technical teams’ engagement and productivity. While operating as the organization’s CEO, she recently authored and self-published a bestselling book, ARMORED.
Examples of Dawn’s Presentation Titles and Subjects include:
- Defining Your “I” in BusIness Development
- Achieving the Ultimate Client Experience
- The Common Denominator in All Challenging Situations
- Applying Crisis Management Skills to Personal Battles
- Stretch and Press — Doubling Down on Your Strengths
- Ten Life Strategies from a Big Dreamer
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in the 1970s in a small, rural town in south Louisiana. By general stereotypes and outward observations, I should never have achieved the successes that I can claim today. I don’t come from wealth or connections, but with a lot of hard work, I have surpassed my childhood fantasies for a beautiful life with a wonderful, loving husband and rewarding career.
My husband, Daran, and I have lived in Houston for twenty years. We are passionate animal lovers and share our home with our third generation of rescued pups. I am a big dreamer with a strong faith. I love to travel and experience new cultures, and I am also a passionate appreciator and collector of art.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve worked for twenty-eight years to become a business executive, singularly driven to advance in my profession. In the early part of my career when I was in my twenties and early-to-mid thirties, you might define me as ambitious and restless. Things weren’t happening fast enough for me, so I’d move on to the next job within a couple of years.
Eventually, I found my home in Houston’s corporate real estate industry, excelling in business development and marketing leadership positions within the region’s largest economic development organization, as well as international commercial construction companies.
And just when I thought that I had settled in and had things figured out, I harnessed another growth opportunity. In February 2017, I founded Authentizity, LLC, as an independent business growth strategist to assist companies with customized programs designed to advance their leadership proficiencies, team alignment, and outreach effectiveness. I became a Gallup-Certified CliftonStrengths® Coach and then leveraged that tool to provide consulting, training, and coaching services that optimize technical teams’ engagement and productivity.
I have witnessed that, if I open myself to pressing and stretching, I will be challenged and step up to the task before me.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
In recent years, there has been a real movement to increase the number of women successfully working in the commercial construction/corporate real estate industry. As a woman who has been successful in this and its supporting fields, I am frequently asked “So how did you do it; how did you not only excel but thrive in a very, male-dominated world?”
For the record, I despise that phrase or mindset. First and foremost, I never thought of it that way. In my opinion, if you allow yourself to think that way, you’re coming at it from a negative perspective before you even walk in the door to get started.
Reflecting back, I never saw myself as any different than anyone else. Intuitively, I see people and I’m naturally curious and want to be a resource to them. Because of this, I didn’t become intimidated if I was the only woman in the room. That’s because I never even noticed that I was the only woman in the room. And if I had, I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t have made a difference to me.
As an example, I remember when I was working in economic development for the Greater Houston Partnership seventeen years ago and managed the site visit of an Italian-based aviation manufacturer. The delegation was twenty people, including eight or so city leaders/executives. After a full day of events (including a five-course dinner at an upscale Houston restaurant), one our guests congratulated me on a great day. He also boldly mentioned “and you were the only woman the whole day.” Amazed, I thanked him for this odd compliment and then realized that I had spent 14 hours with this group and hadn’t even noticed that I was the only woman.
I’ve seen great strides in the business and technical professional world each year since I entered the workforce with my first full-time job in 1993. Companies (many of them now led by women) know and appreciate the value that diversity of thought has on the advancement of their organizations’ visions. For those companies who don’t realize or appreciate it, they will soon become dinosaurs because intelligent, talented, creative women are here to stay!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? NOTE: This isn’t a funny mistake but IS my biggest lessons learned relevant to speaking.
How many times do we relive and churn something in our heads over and again because it didn’t go as we had envisioned? But just because it didn’t live up to our expectations, does that mean that it was a flop?
There are always lessons to be gleaned from any situation and “success” is in the eye of the beholder.
Several year ago, I had the opportunity to speak at a national conference in Washington D.C.
To say that I was excited was an understatement. I prepared and submitted my presentation and supporting materials months in advance. I then traveled to the conference a few days ahead of the date; and even gave myself plenty of time to clear my head hours before my scheduled time.
With all of this preparation, you would think that I would have blown it out of the water. Alas, I finished feeling slightly off — not a total bomb, but unsatisfied.
For times like these, it’s always great to have the perspective of a trusted, professional friend in the audience. Fortunately, mine was one who gave me good feedback; she said that it was “fine” and that I did well, but I wanted more.
I imagined hitting it out of the park. But since I didn’t, I unproductively used the next several hours to dissect my performance and beat myself up. That was until I had enough and finally commanded to myself to: “Get Over It!”
It’s not like I could go back into the past and change the outcome. So, to better my chances in the future, I identified lessons learned. That way, when other speaking engagement opportunities arose, I didn’t psyche myself out but was better prepared through self-awareness and hard work.
- Requesting a morning time-slot — I’ve always been an early bird; I’m fresher, more animated and think on my feet better at the start of the day.
- Infusing my personality and fun — I remembered to be intentional about adding my personal stories and career examples.
- Not forgetting to eat a meal prior — I always think better on a full stomach!
Moral of the Story: We’re all human and may find ourselves “off” every now and then. We have a choice:
- GET OVER IT!; or
- Let it get in our heads, wallow in it and let it inhibit our futures.
I chose the former and am better because of it…
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I would like to state my deepest and most heartfelt gratitude for my professional mentors Cheryl Taylor Bowie and Pam Lovett. They are both the epitome of grace under fire personified.
They both taught me that we all need one another to thrive. Women need to support and not tear other women down. Men need to welcome women as their allies and their colleagues to collaborate and advance our organizations and ourselves.
They also taught me that it is incumbent upon those of us who have achieved success to mentor and invest in the next generations of emerging women and men to move this mindset forward. Why young men you may ask? Because if we only focus on young women, then we will continue to perpetuate the silos.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
As I reflect on the past 28 years, I can identify that my Imposter Thoughts were much more rampant earlier in my career. The more I became experienced (and comfortable) in my role with trusted colleagues, the more confident I became in expressing my ideas and opinions.
However (for me,) age doesn’t necessarily make the Imposter Thoughts disappear. Each time that I jump off the deep end into unfamiliar territory with new people or new projects, I get a little precursor to anxiety.
I have become more self-aware about it now, though. That precursor has evolved to just a twinge rather than a full-blown, internal anxiety attack. I have also taught myself to use that twinge as a reminder that I’m pushing myself to greatness and climbing to a new frontier that I have yet to discover.
Because that’s all it is, right? Thoughts of being an Imposter are just thoughts until I give them power and energy. Either way, the ball is in my court. How will I leverage my thoughts to further become all that I was put on this great planet to be?
What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?
For the controller/drill sergeant/perfectionist that used to be the driver of me, I was hesitant to try something new if I wasn’t absolutely certain that I would succeed.
However, I now know that those are just thoughts designed to hold me back from my true potential, and I have learned to release and/or harness them. One example symbolic of letting go is ziplining — in my mind, the opposite of control.
That topic was proposed by my husband several years ago. He wanted to zipline; “Chicken Little” here (i.e., me) didn’t, so I set about creating a variety of rules that must be adhered to if I were ever to try this activity. For instance, if we were ever to zipline, the venue:
- must be in the United States,
- must abide by a variety of safety precautions,
- needed to be managed by a reputable company, etc.
Well, we were on an Alaskan cruise in 2016, and all my rules were fulfilled. It wasn’t like he made me do it. It was something that I just knew I had to do to advance myself to the next level in this great game we call life.
Believe me, I wasn’t a brave and courageous warrior as we geared up; I caught myself several times trying to talk myself out of doing it. Recognizing this as just fear of the unknown, I consciously put aside these thoughts and leapt off the first platform. And now, I’m so glad that I did!
Like so many other new experiences in my life, ziplining was exhilarating and fun. I felt an endorphin rush that left me wanting more. AND since I was so successful the first time, I went ziplining with no reservation when we traveled to Costa Rica the following year.
The moral of the story is that I would have missed out on wonderful memories if I had listened to my doubt. The experience reminded me to be on the lookout for other areas where I may be holding myself back.
The challenges that take us out of our comfort zones bubble up as opportunities to catapult (pun intended) us to a new level and a new chapter that further enriches our lives.
What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail? Now’s the time.
Can you share with our readers a few of your most important tips about how to be an effective and empowering speaker? Can you please share some examples or stories? NOTE: Here are my Five Tips that point back to the title of the article.
Let’s get this straight: Most of us do not emerge from the womb as a fantastic public speaker. It takes a lot of work — practice, practice and then more practice — to be comfortable standing up in front of a room of complete strangers and successfully delivering a message.
For those of you old enough to remember the Brady Bunch’s Jan Brady, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest her Dad’s advice about seeing the audience members in their underwear. However, I do agree with his sentiment that audience members are just people and you just need to talk to them as such.
Setting aside what I learned about public speaking from TV sitcoms of yesteryear, here are some tips that continue to work for me:
- Know your audience. If possible, avoid doing a boilerplate presentation. Customize your material so that the message “lands” with your respective market.
- Know your topic to ensure credibility is conveyed. Research the information and provide a balance of statistics and first-hand, stories/best practices/lessons learned from your own experience.
- Be passionate about your presentation. If the content bores you, then how in the world will you get your audience excited?
- Engage your audience. Ask questions; develop worksheets to get their involvement.
- Prepare for Q&A. Are there any “zingers” that you can anticipate to have an answer in your back pocket?
As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?
If you hate public speaking, then you are not alone. In his show, Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld reported from a study that speaking in front of a crowd is the #1 fear of a person; death comes in second. He continued: “that means to the average person if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
If anyone tells you that it’s no big deal to publicly speak and that you should just “get over it”, then they are fooling and/or misleading you. Even the most tenured of professionals (myself at the top of that list) gets a twinge of anxiety as the clock counts down to presentation time.
One of the most profound comments about this subject came from a previous supervisor of mine who is one of the best speakers that I know: “If you don’t get nervous, then it means you don’t care.”
My advice is to harness those nerves and use them to show excitement and enthusiasm about your topic. Your audience will love it!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each. NOTE: This is the advice that I have accumulated throughout my career and assembled in one of my blog posts, “30 Pieces of Advice that I’d Give to my 30-Year-Old Self.” https://authentizity.com/30-pieces-of-advice/
I don’t feel like I “owned my own voice” until I was 30. When I hit 30, I became confident in my own skin. It didn’t happen overnight but was a gradual feeling of just knowing from an internal, guided source.
I still have so many experiences to have and lessons to learn, but here are a few of my own colloquialisms as pieces of advice that I would give to my 30-Year-Old Self based upon my own stories so far.
- Don’t live a victim’s life. Your genetics can be overcome; your destiny lies in your hands alone.
- Find your own voice and use it.
- Remember, though, that the most brilliant person in the room isn’t necessarily the one who speaks the most or the loudest. Listen intently and only when you have something great to say, then speak.
- Your career is like a mosaic with each experience adding to the pattern. Use every job (no matter how menial in your mind) to learn something from and bring with you to the next position.
- Whether it’s in learning a new task or mourning a loved one, THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS. Time invested is time well spent.
- Make a list. This works when both seeking a mate or looking for that great job. Until you can visualize it and put that vision out into the Universe, then you’ll never realize it. Also, that goal may be right under your nose and you never noticed it.
- Don’t settle — for a life partner, career, whatever. Know when to walk away.
- When interviewing for a job, interview them as much as they’re interviewing you. Make sure that it’s the right match for you or you’ll never be content/fulfilled.
- Continue to invest in yourself with new skills, no matter your age or rank.
- Support your colleagues; help even if it’s not “part of your job”.
- Never pay a contractor 100% upfront. It gives you no leverage to negotiate and meet your standards for quality.
- Careful what you put in writing — it will follow you.
- Protect your social media postings/tags; those don’t go away either.
- Presence versus presents. Do you remember what you received for your seventh birthday? You probably don’t but likely remember that great trip to see your grandparents.
- Travel gives you empathy, experience, and energy. It’s also the best medicine for a wounded soul.
- Surround yourself with people who get you. Limit your time with judgmental people who want to pick you apart and who you’ll never please.
- Laugh at yourself as much as possible. Life is too short to take yourself so seriously.
- Be kind. This is universal — whether that person is the CEO or the janitor, it matters not. Always treat all people the same.
- Guard your name as if it’s an endless amount of gold, because it is. It’s the only one you have.
- Leave a legacy.
- Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer.
- Don’t give to get; give to give — for you. Be a resource; be a mentor; just be there. Whether the favor comes from that direct source or not, you will be rewarded for your investment.
- Take your ego out of your day-to-day routine and wake each morning with a servant attitude. When you do that, the Universe stands at attention and the great opportunities will chase you down.
- Jealousy and coveting of others’ lives is a waste of time and energy. Yours is the only life you should visualize/reflect upon.
- Aim for next year at this time to be a better version of yourself than you are right now.
- Rather than focusing on the areas that don’t give you passion and engagement, double down on your strengths; they are as much a part of you as your thumbprint.
- Embrace your quirks — they set you apart.
- Make quiet time to listen to the still, small voice inside of you that guides you.
- Happiness is different than contentment; contentment is a choice that you can decide on ahead of time.
- Don’t put limits on yourself; Dream the Great Big Dream and GO FOR IT!
NOTE: These are in no particular order.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
When you lead a surrendered life, there are times when you are presented with an opportunity to do something that doesn’t make sense at face value.
That is the case when I decided to turn my pain into purpose, and then author and self-publish my recently released book, ARMORED. As I reflect on 2020, I have tried to define/rationalize what this all means for my B2B consulting business.
You see, I have been intentional in keeping my two lives — professional and personal — separate throughout my 28-year career. I can wholeheartedly say that this is no longer the case. While compartmentalization may have worked in the past, it is no longer a reality for me. And I am comfortable with this because I have experienced a deepening of my relationships through my transparency and vulnerability, as I have found that it leads to greater authenticity.
The value of the intersection of my business, Authentizity, and my book, ARMORED, was revealed to me during the quiet and solitary space of this past holiday season. I had rationalized that my professional crisis management knowledge and CliftonStrengths® coaching experience were crucial to successfully drive us to the other side of the health battles that challenged my family at the end of 2019 and into 2020 — and they were.
However, I now recognize that these valleys have not only made me a better human being, but also a more equipped business professional. These obstacles have strengthened my internal talents and wiring and added to the mosaic of my life to finetune my proficiencies, especially related to listening and communication.
More specifically, ARMORED provided Authentizity with an opportunity to learn the book publishing process, which I plan to leverage as I advance future business and client development books. Additionally, ARMORED provided Authentizity with market exposure nationwide, as well as into Europe. Authentizity is now benefitting from speaking, coaching, training, and consulting opportunities as a result.
I know that there is still much work to do as I dream of our world post-pandemic. While we are still in it, though, I am embracing the intersection of where I am to prepare for what comes next. I am so excited to see what’s on the other side!
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
I try not to think too far down the road because there will always be obstacles that arise to set my ambitions back. By adopting that philosophy, the successes that I have experienced have taken me in a direction that was better than my vision board could have ever created. So, what do I do when I’m in the thick fog of it with no end in sight?
Here are 3 Tips I Practice When the Future is as Clear as Mud:
- Serve — We are all called to serve with whatever strengths are hardwired into our being. By leveraging my talents to assist others, I take my ego out of the equation and invariably help myself.
One example of this occurred sometime in the three-month mark of the pandemic. I woke up on a random Thursday morning in a foul mood. It doesn’t happen often, but it did that day. There was no real cause for my unpleasant attitude except that I was tired of the situation with no near-term conclusion. I let myself own those feelings for a couple of hours, but then I picked up the phone and called some of my clients. As I assisted them to strategically think through their particular business needs, my spirits began to lift.
- Surrender — I refer to 2017 as my Year of Surrender. (As I had adopted following reading Michael Singer’s book, The Surrender Experiment.)
Prior to that time, this concept would have seemed foreign to me. However, I now know that by adopting this practice, and then surrendering so many times in the past four years, I am present to experience all the great gifts awaiting me.
- Follow the Breadcrumbs — When all else fails and nothing makes sense, it’s best to do something rather than to remain frozen in time with inaction. Personally, I have found that I may not be able to predict the big picture, but I can easily follow the breadcrumbs. Cumulatively, these small accomplishments amass into the achievement of larger victories that then lead to monumental successes.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Mark Twain famously said that “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
I wasn’t born with the trait of staying calm in a storm. Although, it has become an acquired and vital life trait. Despite my best-laid plans, life rarely follows a predictable path. I have found that if I relax and breathe through the challenges that I will be pleasantly surprised by the outcomes.
Worrying is natural. However, I now choose a different path. I have found that, as soon as I become aware of my worrying, I can opt to go down that road, or I can simply focus on a new, more positive thought. Choosing the positive thought is a healthier option because I know deep down that ninety-nine percent of the things that my overactive imagination concocts never come to fruition. So then, why worry about it?
Living a life surrendered to whatever is put before you that day is the antithesis of the superimposed, strategic planning touted by Corporate America where I work daily. However, I have found that this radical trust is far more fulfilling, and I do accomplish more.
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Imagine if we lived in a world where everyone is fully engaged and passionate about not only their work, but their day to day lives, because they are operating from their respective strengths zones.
Forget about bettering your so-called weaknesses. Forget about wishing that you were more of this or were better at that by comparing yourself to “John or Betty.”
There are other people who love to do what you absolutely abhor or don’t gravitate to, so why should you beat yourself up about it?
When you’re in a place where you know that you know that you know, then everything just flows out of you with ease. That’s your individual strengths zone; it’s a place where your uniqueness exists because it is derived from the way that we were hardwired at birth.
Having personally utilized the CliftonStrengths® assessment for almost ten years, I have seen the benefit that it brings to an organization in creating a common language, empathy, and awareness of the worth of each team member’s talents. Rather than concentrating on our weaknesses, it asks us to embrace who we are and operate from the areas in which we are strongest and most engaged. It sees our strengths as our superpowers and encourages us to proactively and positively lean on our fellow team members to advance our organization’s mission/vision.
I believe that an organization’s foundation must be healthy (starting from the top with the alignment of the leadership team) before any true and sustained growth may be realized for advancement, especially respective of sustainable financial profits. By embedding a tool such as CliftonStrengths into an organization, there becomes a shared language amongst colleagues as well as more empathy and appreciation for diversity of thought and experience. This ultimately leads to more engaged, content, and passionate employees because their superpowers are in maximum overdrive.
Gallup’s classic question has always been: “Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?” Just imagine what this world would be like if we all did…
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I would love to have lunch with Jim Clifton of Gallup to thank him and the organization for all of their great work. For fun, meeting Diana Gabaldon or Brene’ Brown would be such a treat!
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram: @armored_book and @dlandry101
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!