My public speaking journey

By Diane Sieg | 02/25/2016
I took a risk! Part 1 of a three-part series about nurse entrepreneurs.

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After graduating from Indiana University School of Nursing in 1982, I worked in critical care, emergency, open-heart ICU, cardiac rehab, and invasive cardiology diagnostics, with a brief stint in the corporate world as a product manager for a software company. Clients, friends, and family who know I worked in hospitals across the country often ask, "How long were you a nurse?" I always answer, "I’m still a nurse. I just don’t work at the bedside anymore."

Sieg_Diane_ID_embed_SFWThroughout my 23 years of traditional nursing, I always had a passion for health and wellness. I taught group exercise classes—from high-impact aerobics to kick-boxing. I became a personal trainer—ACSM-certified—and a certified lifestyle counselor (AALC), teaching weight management, smoking cessation, and stress management in one-on-one and group settings. From the start, I’ve called my business Personal Balance.

It wasn’t until I attended a women’s conference and heard Mary LoVerde, MS, ANP, a fellow nurse, give a fabulous presentation on life balance to a large group of women that I considered speaking professionally. After her program, I stood in line to ask if she was making a living at it. When she said yes, I insisted on taking her to lunch.

That one decision, almost 20 years ago, started my speaking journey, and what a journey it has been, full of twists and turns I never would have imagined when I set out on my quest. In the paragraphs that follow, I identify major turning points that have brought me to what is now a full-time career as speaker, author, and consultant. Now I show stressed-out nurses how, through mindfulness, to take care of themselves in today’s demanding and ever-changing world of health care.

Joined a speakers association
The best advice I got from LoVerde during that first lunch was to join a speakers association, and it is the same advice I give every new speaker I meet. I joined the National Speakers Association (NSA). NSA has 35 state chapters. Lucky for me, Colorado has one of the most active chapters in the United States. I’ve built many relationships crucial to my career in this organization, including like-minded colleagues, wonderful friends, and mentors. I know I would never have come as far as I have without the generous support of all these people. I still attend meetings to nurture these connections and to remind me what I don’t know and, more importantly, what I’m not doing.

Hired a coach
One of the many things I love about public speaking is that it’s always changing, just like the emergency room. Audiences have never been more sophisticated, informed, and demanding than they are today. As speakers, we have to keep up with or, better yet, stay ahead of the curve, not only with content, but also with delivery. I have had numerous coaches over the years help me with platform skills, sales and marketing, humor, strategic business planning, and more. The one I work with now keeps me just uncomfortable enough to keep me learning and growing.

Gave lots of free speeches
The only way you can speak more is to speak more. This not only makes you a better speaker (and keeps you humble) but also exposes you to different audiences, which increases your chances of being hired to speak to more audiences. In the beginning, I would speak to almost any audience who would give me the opportunity.

Wrote my first book
I was fortunate to be approached by a publisher who was interested in my topic and the fact that I was a speaker with a platform. In May 2003, LifeLine Press published Stop Living Life Like an Emergency: Rescue Strategies for the Overworked and the Overwhelmed. Based on my 23 years of experiences in the ER, this book provides self-care strategies for everyone. Writing my first book was quite a roller coaster, from the sheer terror of writer’s block to celebrity treatment at photo shoots and book signings.

Wrote my second book
This book was written as a memoir about a woman—me—finding her voice under great adversity. After it was completely edited, it was submitted to many agents and publishers, and I am grateful it was never published. Looking back, I regard it as a cathartic process I needed to go through to heal and not right for the public eye.

Found yoga
During a painful divorce, when I was too sick and tired to get to the gym, I found the healing benefits of yoga. It wasn’t just the poses. Yes, the poses eliminated the lower back pain from all those years working in the ER, and I gained half an inch in height because of improved posture. But the real benefit came from deep breathing, meditation, and stillness, which I now know are all practices of mindfulness.

Became certified as a speaker
Awarded by the National Speakers Association, the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) certification is the speaking profession’s international measure of professional platform competence. Based on speaking performance (graded by clients), number of engagements, and revenue generated, only 12 percent of more than 5,000 speakers worldwide who belong to the Global Speakers Federation currently hold this professional designation.

Wrote my third book
The benefits I experienced from yoga were so profound I wanted to share them with clients—not just the physical postures, but the other practices of deep breathing, meditation, and journaling. The resulting book—30 Days to Grace: The Daily Practice Guide to Achieve Your Ultimate Goals—along with its companion CD were published and produced by Intentional Press.

Created mindfulness challenges
When I saw the health and wellness world promoting challenges such as "The Biggest Loser," "Quit for Good," and "Walk Across America," I decided to create one for stress management. I came up with the "Chaos to CALM in 30 Days Mindfulness Challenge." The program, which requires a commitment to practice five minutes of mindfulness every day for 30 days, has brought great results—a 30.8 percent average decrease in stress!

Building on the success of my 30-day mindfulness challenge, I created "Your Mindful Year." This interactive online program supports subscribers in their goal to live mindfully for an entire year. With 12 monthly themed challenges, participants are guided through a variety of mindfulness practices.

I’m still a nurse!
Today, I spend the majority of my time traveling around the country introducing nurses and nurse leaders—through speaking, training, retreats, and 30-day challenges—to the powerful practice of mindfulness. All of my nursing experience has brought me to the exact place I am today, and I am grateful.

Even though I haven’t worked at the bedside for more than 10 years, I’m still a nurse, with a mission to serve other nurses who work in one of the noblest and most difficult professions, helping them do it in the safest and most compassionate way.

Diane Sieg, RN, CYT, CSP, is a former emergency room nurse turned speaker, author, yoga teacher, and mindfulness coach. For more information, visit http://www.dianesieg.com

Read the other articles in the I took a risk! series:
Part 2: I knew I could do it better!
Part 3: My relentless pursuit of opportunity
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