Christine Clifford – “There’s no such thing as “Think of all your audience members sitting in their underwear.”
“Staring at a group of people staring back at you can be extremely intimidating…”
m.o Newsletter – April 2012
Christine Clifford, CSP consults with companies on marketing with a special emphasis on branding and positioning. She combines her wisdom, humor, insight and lifetime experiences to encourage great accomplishments in others. Don’t forget to laugh!™ and Don’t forget to ask!™ are her two trademarks.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, Christine Clifford wrote a humorous portrayal of her story in Not Now, I’m Having A No Hair Day!, a nominee for 1996′s “Best Motivational Book”. She is also the author of Our Family Has Cancer, Too! ; Inspiring Breakthrough Secrets to Live Your Dreams; Cancer Has Its Privileges; Your Guardian Angel’s Gift; YOU, Inc: The Art of Selling Yourself, and her two newest releases: Laugh ‘ Til It Heals and The Clue Phone’s Ringing… It’s for You! Healing Humor for Women Divorcing. She also contributed to three Chicken Soup books.
Christine Clifford serves on the boards of Angel Foundation and the state chapter of the National Speakers’ Association.
Christine Clifford Enterprises is a consulting company that helps companies and individuals craft and tell their story. She is also a full-time, award-winning Professional Speaker, having achieved her CSP designation (Certified Speaking Professional) from the National Speakers Association.
MO: How did you discover that you had a gift for professional speaking?
Christine: I wrote a book. When I’m asked how I managed to write a book, I answer, “I gave a speech.” I never set out to be a Professional Speaker or author. I simply kept doing what I loved. There was no end in mind. There was only a path I loved walking.
I had majored in speech communication in college, so there was always a passion there for me. But when I gave my very first “Professional Speech” about finding humor in the cancer journey and got a standing ovation, I knew that I had found my life’s calling.
MO: What inspired you to launch Divorcing Divas and what kind of topics do you cover in your conferences?
Christine: After going through my second divorce from a marriage that included domestic violence, I realized that after I filed for divorce, I felt like a bird out of a cage—totally free. Yet, I looked around me, at friend, colleagues and total strangers going through divorce, who could barely put one foot in front of the other. Some of them couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning. So I asked myself, why do I feel so good, and how can I pass that on to others in this situation? I realized that I had systemically taken steps to get me where I was, and thought, “This is something I can teach.”
We cover every aspect of the divorce process from the legal and financial journey—before, during and after divorce—to the psychological recovery. Can I learn to forgive? How has verbal or physical abuse taken its toll? We focus on health as well: What is divorce doing to my body? How can I learn to be fit and active? And we cover everything from “Now that I’m single, how do I buy and service a car?” to “Finding Your Voice.” We really try to cover all bases.
MO: You’re such an accomplished professional speaker. What would your advice be to individuals who are intimidated or overwhelmed by public speaking?
Christine: There’s no such thing as “Think of all your audience members sitting in their underwear.” Staring at a group of people staring back at you can be extremely intimidating. Start small. Begin by speaking to just yourself in a mirror. Then expand by asking your family members to sit on the couch and listen to you for fifteen minutes. Branch out to groups that are non-threatening, such as a church group or an organization you’ve been a member of for years. Anything you can do to have a sense of security and comfort will help you build confidence over time.
MO: Where does your entrepreneurial spirit come from?
Christine: LOL, I wish I knew! First, I have to credit my long-term employer The SPAR Group for teaching me all the skills I needed to launch my own businesses. It can pay off in dividends if you get your education through corporate America. But I believe it comes from my core, and that is: I have survived life-changing challenges and thrived. I want to help others realize that they, too, can find life~ and a good life~ on the other side of those challenges. So in the end, that spirit comes from a calling of wanting to give back.
MO: How have you managed to become a pioneer in the field of therapeutic humor? How have you taken emotionally charged and taboo topics like cancer and divorce, and turned them into opportunities for laughter and healing?
Christine: I realized when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, that humor was a great connector of people. And I didn’t want to face my journey alone. I wanted support and people to surround me. Yet I soon discovered that when friends and family heard I had cancer, they didn’t know what to say. And they certainly didn’t want to say the “wrong thing,” so often times they said nothing and pulled away. I found if I could use humor to put people at ease, that it opened up the lines of communication.
Certainly when I wrote my first book in 1996 (Not Now, I’m Having a No Hair Day!), no one had really put humor to the topic of cancer. So my cartoons and my “sic” sense of humor were an immediate hit. Today, there are hundreds of people using humor with cancer. Feature films (50/50) and syndicated television have shows (The Big C) about surviving cancer with humor.
I was just lucky to be on the forefront of this aspect of therapeutic humor. Now I’m doing the same thing with divorce.
MO: What would your advice be to someone interested in pursuing a career in professional speaking?
Christine: Hire a professional to be your teacher and mentor. You’ll save years of spinning your wheels. A good mentor/teacher will not only help you put together the professional media kit that is needed for speaking, but will help you define your top three industries or target markets. They will help you define three topics to speak about and titles for those speeches that will catch people’s attention. And they could help you write that book you’ve always had inside of you. Lastly, they can and should introduce you to organizations and associations that are looking for speakers on your topics.
Then practice, practice, practice. If necessary, go out and give speeches for free just to get the experience. Then, as you add to your credentials, collect letters of recommendation from groups that have heard you speak, place articles in strategic magazines, newspapers, blogs or publications such as MO.com, you can start to build the foundation that leads to the life of a Professional Speaker. I can tell you from the top, the view looks great from here!