“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.”   – Ani DiFranco

CAPS Calgary is a vibrant, influential and growing community of professional speakers, trainers and facilitators. It is a place to call home for thought leaders who find themselves constantly surrounded by audiences and crowds, and yet frequently feel isolated and perhaps a little misunderstood. We are a profession where ‘solopreneurs’ are not a rarity but are rather the norm.

Although we live large when we are up on a big stage, many of us share similar doubts when the gig is up. What comes next? Am I relevant? How do others do it? Can I ask for more money and still keep my schedule full?  How can I juggle all the tasks and still keep my life in balance?

This is where an association like CAPS can provide unprecedented value. Success never happens in isolation, and finding a place of trust and encouragement can be difficult for many. CAPS, and CAPS Calgary, is focused on generating powerful connections, support and education that help each of us answer those big questions (and many more like them). I have personally found that CAPS has brought me valuable “insider” knowledge, a sense of belonging and the unquestioned support that can only come when you are a part of a like-minded community.

I have come to realize that my background as a peace officer has shaped my thinking about how I do business and grow my speaking career. For example, I learned as a Constable that when the going got tough (and at some point it always did), the tough stuck together, shoulder to shoulder (even if we were not particularly fond of one another). In enforcement, there was no room for self-preservation thinking – we relied on each other for help when we needed it and we trusted it would be given. After leaving law enforcement, I didn’t realize how much I missed that security and sense of belonging until I attended my first meeting in 2010. CAPS welcomed me in and showed me that support and loyalty don’t just happen on patrol.

Each month (typically the third Saturday – although I encourage you to check the calendar of events to confirm the monthly dates), CAPS Calgary members gather together at the Blackfoot Inn to share knowledge, have fun and inspire one another with fresh perspectives and ideas. From coaching to masterminding to workshop training, there is something for everyone willing to reach out and invest in their success.

Every year, the Chapter President is encouraged to craft an over-riding theme or objective for our meetings – a way of designing programs that fuel specific outcomes which will be mutually beneficial for each of our members. This year, I chose CAPTIVATE as that theme.

Why, you might ask?    Because I believe that today’s audiences have short attention spans and so do we. From web surfing to channel surfing, no one watches anything that stands still long enough to bore. Substandard or repetitive content and inane commercials are no longer endured. Our audiences are savvier than that. It is our duty, alongside relevant and insightful content, to develop a captivating presence both on and off the stage – one that grabs attention, holds the heart AND nourishes the mind.

CAPTIVATE…. What an interesting word. By definition it means to attract and hold by charm, beauty or excellence. To hold the attention of by fascinating; to enchant; to hypnotize.

I think to be captivating you must have internal fire; a spark of passion that runs through the core of all that you do. You have to have compassion, courage and a driving purpose that pushes you onwards in spite of setbacks. Some things I find captivating are strong moral character, intellect, imagination, curiosity and an enduring sense of humor.

This year, I challenge you to join us on our quest to become mesmerizing – to discover new strategies for captivating our audiences. To do this, we will need to make a commitment to being open to new ideas; to being adventurous and to having fun.

We are not Google. Our audiences can go there whenever they need one-way learning (heck, they already do!). We are human beings, and our responsibility as professional speakers is to share innovative thoughts and ideas. When we combine that with compelling, interactive presentations we create extraordinary learning experiences that benefit our audiences and ourselves.

It’s time to start our quest, and allow ourselves to shift from memorizing to mesmerizing, and from not only captivating your audiences, but ourselves as well!

2014 is shaping up to be a great year for me professionally.  And part of the goals and objectives I have set for myself this year is the shift from Programming Chair to President of our local CAPS Chapter.  I wrote a letter to our members and to those who wish to learn more about CAPS (Canadian Association of Professional Speakers).  I thought I would share the letter as a little background.  Tune in later this week for insights on how I transitioned my career from COPS to CAPS.