Public speaking is ranked at number one for people’s greatest fear, isn’t that crazy? Above being alone, dying, or being mentally/physically ill, speaking in front of a crowd is the most common number one fear for people. It’s unfortunate because if only more people could tell their story and get out there, their lives and the lives of those around them could change forever. Today I have the pleasure to be sitting down with Rich Parsons. Rich is a United States Air Force veteran that served for over 27 years, has spoken at over 100 events and has taught, mentored and shared leadership insights to thousands of military personnel and civilian employees. His direct involvement and heart for helping others has allowed his span of influence to multiply across services in national, international and deployed environments, to grow leaders that positively impact other people.
While honorably serving his country, Rich’s excellence and professionalism were recognized as he humbly received distinguished graduate honors and the United States Air Force’s “Professional Military Education Instructor of the Year” award. Rich has settled down in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and now brings his years of experience and recognized excellence in public speaking to the TEDx Colorado Springs community as a one-on-one speaker coach helping others craft their message, enhance their stage presence and deliver their story in the most impactful way possible.
Rich, thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with me today, I know how busy you can be. How are you doing today?
I am doing well and super-excited for what 2020 has to offer. This is going to be an amazingly successful year! Thanks for the opportunity to visit with you today.
That’s great to hear. Can you quickly introduce yourself to those who may not know you?
You bet. As you already mentioned, I retired after more than 27 years of service to our country. Over that time, I had the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. In both aspects, there were mentors and coaches along the way that pushed me to be better, to do my very best and stand out from the crowd. The lessons I learned along the way helped shape me into a successful leader, trainer, coach and mentor. As I matured, I realized that I had a great opportunity to use my experiences to help people overcome obstacles, realize their untapped potential and make a difference in the lives of others. To this day, I credit a good friend and mentor of mine, Mike Sullivan, for being a positive influence professionally, which ended up impacting me personally as well. My desire to use my talents and abilities to grow others was birthed in-part by that relationship.
I launched my business Higher Calling Consulting, LLC knowing that I wanted to make it my purpose to help others be their very best in anything they desired. I firmly believe that when a person operates and performs at their very best, then those they influence and impact have an increased opportunity to be their very best. A person can do anything they put their mind to. Once that mental image is planted, all efforts should be aimed towards that mental image until it becomes a reality. It is said that everything is created twice; once in the mind (creative imagination) and then in the physical form (reality).
Fantastic, so how long have you been a speaker coach now and what was your purpose for becoming a speaker coach?
The opportunity to teach and coach others in public speaking and presentation skills started back in 2002, with over 1000 directly or indirectly impacted during a 4-year period. Over the course of 17 years, I honestly could not tell you exactly how many people I have coached and mentored along the way, but I can say that, as a coach, the joy that comes from seeing a person step into their greatest potential, be it as a speaker, or on a personal level, is second to none.
The joy that I speak of is one of the main reasons that I consider it an honor to serve as a speaker coach. Over the years, I have received much feedback and gained great insight from my own coaches and mentors, and I feel that my gift back to others is to share my experience and knowledge with them. To see the smile on someone’s face and the confidence in their posture when they have exhibited the courage to overcome a fear or soar over a hurdle and absolutely kill it on stage is priceless. My personal coaching motto is, “YOUR Success is My Purpose” and that is about as true as it comes!
What types of clients do you work with?
My ideal client, and the client that is going to be best served by me and benefit the most, is the client that is ready to give a 100% effort and has a true desire to be the very best they can be…not saying perfect, but their very best. That client can be the person that wants to work on a 90-second to 3-minute pitch in front of a small audience, or the aspiring professional speaker that has a dream to get in front of hundreds or thousands of people. My process is simple and repeatable, and it all starts with creating a connection, because connection affords influence, influence builds trust and trust creates opportunity for great outcomes and success.
That’s amazing, now I know your core values are Faith, Integrity, Trust and Commitment; How do these core values impact you not only as a person, but as a coach?
Each of the core values are, in my opinion, foundational for success in just about any aspect of life. Faith, integrity, trust and commitment are interlaced in the coaching relationship. We must have faith in each other and the process, knowing that integrity, trust, and commitment are hinge points for success. As I drafted the values for the company, I took great care to ensure that they were representative of me as well. I have to live up to them with the hope and expectation that my clients will do so in return.
What is your goal when you’re working with a client?
My goal when working with a client is pretty simple at the core of it all… give my best to bring out their best to actualize a dream or goal. I truly desire to connect with my clients, establish trust and offer my 100% very best with the goal of achieving the client’s desire of getting their message out in the most effective and impactful manner possible. Meeting the client’s needs and providing honest, genuine feedback is a key to success.
I want the coaching relationship to be a good fit for both parties. That is why the initial conversation during an exploration session is so important. It is pretty easy to tell if the coaching relationship is a good fit or not. If it is not, I have found that it is best to offer to connect them with a coach that I feel will be a better fit for them. Sometimes a person’s story is best-suited for a coach with experience in that area. It’s been my experience that a good connection is paramount to an effective outcome. I do not want to work with a coach with whom I do not feel connected, so why would I expect a client to do any different. Having said that, fortunately, I have not had a client yet that I did not connect with and walk alongside on the path to success! My ability to connect and build relationships certainly helps form a bond.
So you’ve won multiple awards, taught thousands of military personnel not only for the US Military, but foreign military personnel in developing countries as well. Can you tell me what these experiences taught you?
My greatest joy comes from making an impact, no matter how big or small, in the lives of others. Awards and recognition are nice… they serve as good fodder for the resume and conversation topics, but the biggest reward comes from what led to the recognition. Being able to have a direct impact on new leaders as they stepped into their roles as supervisors, knowing how to effectively speak to an audience of 2 or 200, armed with the skills they needed to be successful was a great experience. The opportunity to educate, train and influence a developing country was amazing. I credit that for much of my awareness of other cultures and learning how to communicate effectively on their level, and more importantly, that one of the most important aspects of communication isn’t the words that are spoken, rather the connection that is made. Connection equals influence, and influence can be a gamechanger in so many ways. So, if you want to influence and impact someone or a situation, create a solid connection and watch what happens.
Has there ever been a client you couldn’t produce results for?
While there have certainly been some challenging clients, I have to say that the hard work each of them put into crafting, tweaking and creating their best talk paid off. I am happy to share that each of my clients have worked hard, received feedback well, made vast improvements and delivered an amazing talk, no matter the forum. I continue to grow my own knowledge base and develop skills that I use in my own speaking opportunities, which I gladly share with all of my clients… and really anyone who wants to know what I am learning.
What can someone expect while/after working with you?
First and foremost, anyone that works with me in any capacity will get 100% and that is exactly what I desire in return. When that happens, magic can happen! Clients have the ideas worth sharing, and it is my job to help them take those ideas from ideation to stage time in the most effective and efficient way possible. Sometimes an ideation session actually reveals additional talks that need to be birthed when the time is right, which is really exciting when that happens.
I worked with a speaker from Missouri who had a well-crafted talk that he had already worked on rather extensively. So aside from a few tweaks to the material, we mainly worked to up-level his stage presence and strengthen the delivery of his story of ethical communication. That was an amazing talk! We have kept in touch since his talk on our TEDx stage and share ideas with one another.
I also had the pleasure of working with a speaker from New Mexico who had a great idea of blending traits shared by comedians and leaders. This was a more in-depth working, as he worked to meld his personal stories as a comedian and leader into an inspiring talk that had the audience laughing and thinking at the same time. We were able to form a connection in a virtual setting by getting to know him, his family and what his true desire was for getting his idea to the TEDx stage. I established trust, used my energy and encouragement to build confidence and ensured he was ready to courageously take the stage… he rocked it!
Early in my career as a trainer and coach, I was able to take young leaders with very little speaking experience and help them capitalize on their ability to influence and impact others through communication. One of my proudest moments was seeing one of my military students express a dream to be in a public speaking setting and then realize that dream when a decision-maker noticed their talent and worked to make it a reality. I ran into that person several times throughout the years and it was apparent that the dream job was the perfect fit, personally and professionally.
My clients have frequently commented positively on my outgoing and relaxed style, and shared comments like wholly invested in success, passionate, 100% committed, and energetic, to describe attributes that I bring to the coaching relationship. At the end of the day, I want to look at myself in the mirror and know that I gave my very best to help my clients perform at their very best. And, I want my clients to feel that they are getting my very best at all times!
What advice would you give to someone who’s afraid of public speaking or has to give a speech and wants to knock it out of the park?
Wow… that is a great question and one that I can directly relate to. I will share the same simple advice that I was given when I first started speaking in public settings… DO MORE OF IT! Basically, the best way to get accustomed to being in front of an audience, is to be in front of an audience. Don’t worry as much about the old adage, “Practice makes perfect.” At the core of it matter, practice increases comfort and courage. I think having a coach to provide some simple insight and feedback is so valuable. I know it has been for me. Aside from that, the hard work is put in by the speaker. As a coach, I can’t make the words flow, or make the nerves subside… that’s on the speaker. My role as a coach is to come alongside them with encouragement, relevant and honest feedback, tips and tricks to help them out and ultimately keep the positive mindset that they are going to own the stage, whatever stage that might be, and absolutely crush it!
If a speaker feels that they are going to freak out in front of a large audience, get distracted and mess something up, or be judged while they are speaking, then that is what they should get comfortable with. Practice reciting your talk while doing various activities… the crazier, more active and distracting the better. You’re less likely to be distracted by a sneeze, dropped water bottle, or some random noise, during your actual presentation. Why practice alone, in front of your mirror… get out in front of a larger group of people, preferably strangers (airport, mall, bus, train, coffee shop), and start sharing your talk. I heard someone share that they walked up to the barista at a coffee shop and asked their lead-in, thought-provoking question from their talk before ordering their drink, and then, before the barista could say anything, gave the follow-on line of the talk, which drew a rather puzzled look from the barista.
Well Rich, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me today. Before you go can you leave our audience with the best way for someone to get in contact with you?
The best way to contact me is by email at email@example.com or by filling out a contact request on my website www.highercallingconsultingllc.com. I can’t wait to connect with folks and help them blow their next speaking opportunity out of the water!
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