Guest Blog: “I can do better than that!” An Experienced Speaker Looks Back

I’ve asked Bill O’Hanlon to do a mini-series of blog posts on how he got started on the speaker circuit.  Today, we know Bill as a very successful speaker – but he wasn’t always . . .

The way I began teaching workshops was perhaps a little strange. I got angry.

I was just learning about a new approach created by Bandler and Grinder, later to be called NLP. I had read a book about it and gone to one of their workshops.

When a well-known Gestalt psychiatrist came to Tucson, a two-hour drive from my Phoenix-area home base, to give an evening presentation on their work, I was excited. I had seen this psychiatrist present a workshop on Gestalt and had enjoyed it.

The presentation was to be a three-hour event, meaning that I would get home very late on a work night and it would cost $25, which was a lot of money for me in those days.

Worse than that, my car was on the fritz. But I was excited about this approach, so I ponied up the money and convinced a friendly colleague to drive. I told her the work was really interesting and she would get a lot out of it.

So you can imagine my disappointment when we discovered that he had not really prepared well for the presentation. I had to bite my tongue from correcting him when he got several points wrong.

I was upset about the cost, the time lost and letting my friend down. All the way home, I ranted about it. “I could have done better than that at half the price!” I proclaimed.

She listened in silence, but when she dropped me off, I continued the rant to my best friend/roommate, who challenged me immediately. “If you think you can do better, why don’t you?”

“Why don’t I what?”

“Teach a workshop.”

I hemmed and hawed, but he wasn’t having any of it. He held my feet to the fire until I agreed, set the date and the topic and secured the venue.

Me and my big mouth. Now I had to put up or shut up. Thus began my speaking career.

I’ll bet many of you reading this have had that thought when you saw a poorly prepared speaker: “I can do better than that!”

The takeaways for any reader interested in becoming a speaker:

  1. Be prepared. As flaky and lazy as I can be, I over-prepare.
  2. Start taking action. The only way you will become a speaker is if you step out of your comfort zone and do something toward making your speaking dreams a reality.
  3. Follow your passion. It doesn’t always have to be “Follow Your Bliss.” (I heard that Joseph Campbell once remarked that he thought that phrase was turning into a cliché and that perhaps he should, have said “Follow your blisters” instead.)

NICABM has teamed up with Bill O’Hanlon to create a course with “the newbie public speaker” in mind, How to Become a Paid Public Speaker.

We lay out the secrets to becoming a successful speaker.  And using a clear, step-by-step formula, you’ll learn how to tap into the benefits of the paid lecture circuit.

Interested? You can find more information here.

Next time Bill will share a story about his first international speaking invitation.  But first, please share your story – leave a comment below.


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  3. I realize I’m more than a little late on this correspondence but I just joined NICABM.

    Oh, this brings back so many memories of Richard and John. Little did they know what impact they would have on our psychological culture with their bold new theory. My mentor brought them to Tulsa many years ago. I still use some of the techniques I learned WAY back then.


  4. Shannon Bick says:

    I have had the same problem since I was young; I have a very strong fear of dying. Often times I will make myself get out of bed and do something to avert my thoughts; mainly I will take a shower and drink a glass of warm milk with vanilla and some sugar. If this doesn’t work, try something a little bit more stimulating that can avert the thoughts, but won’t keep you awake for hours once you lay down. Pick up one of your favorite books, or walk around in your back yard for a bit.. . If it still persists, speak with your doctor. They can prescibe something for you to take when these attacks occur that will sooth your thoughts and help you fall asleep.. . I know how horrible this is. Best of luck.


  1. […] NICABM has teamed up with Bill O’Hanlon to create a course with “the newbie public speaker” in mind, How to Become a Paid Public Speaker. […]

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