The Power of Laughter
22nd November was a lovely day: I started collaborating with A-Speakers, Amazon published my book, and as a business networker I made a perfect-match introduction. It was also my birthday.
A birthday is not such good news at this stage of life: if you’re a woman, you camouflage your age at all cost because the prevailing opinion is that being in your fifties is well past death. But in my case, it’s only in my fifties that things started to properly come together. I was a professional opera singer, I loved the singing and the music, but never felt comfortable in that world. When the recession came and jobs disappeared, I retrained in marketing and started working for a cybersecurity company. It involves lots of business networking. I do so much of it with great results that a national UK newspaper interviewed me as one of the networking experts. In October, I held my first two workshops at a prestigious UK business school. Then I spent 12 days writing a book on how to network. In July I entered a professional speaking competition on just a few day’s notice – and won it. Then after a dinner during a professional speaker convention I took part in the open mic, improvised and discovered my inner stand-up comedian (you can see the clip on YouTube). The response from the audience was overwhelmingly wonderful. And here it is: it all came together in just four months, in my fifties.
I learned the hard way all the things I’m famous for. I had to go through fundamental change and face enormous obstacles, not taking anyone’s word for it. I learned to come back through the window when I was thrown out of the door. In the process, I discovered what works and what’s an illusion – and I want to share it with you.
I’m on a mission to empower. I think we take far too many things for granted and we severely underestimate what we CAN do about it. You don’t have to agree to be what others think you should be. You don’t have to agree to be trapped in your background. It’s your life. It really is yours and no one else’s. And you certainly don’t have to accept that bizarre idea that youth is what counts in life more than anything else.
My other mission is to make bellies wobble. After seven years in cyber, I can safely say that it’s not the Internet of Things that is the answer. It’s the belly laugh.
With all kinds of disasters constantly being reported, worry, fear and anger have overtaken our lives. We must laugh more. Life is so full of unexpected nonsense that if you see it from a different angle, you’ll laugh. With the help of many diverse careers, I gained a very wide perspective and I’m well equipped to help you see it.
A few weeks ago, I spoke to a global security association. The audience were counter-terrorism experts. My slot was at the very end, just before drinks. I was touched to hear so many people thank me afterwards. They laughed with me, it was a release, a relief, a break from it all. I felt like Santa with a great bag of gifts and happy faces all around. Loved that.
Laughing together has a unifying, humane, healing power. It may be that bringing a comedian to your corporate events is just the right thing.
Interview with Beatrice Freeman
How did your speaking career begin?
As a result of 20 years in opera, I have a huge need to be heard. As me. Not as yet another character, not in the words of other people, but talking about the things I’ve experienced and learned from (most often the hard way). So when an email about a competition happening in two days appeared in my inbox, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to find out what it’s like to speak from a stage. It was past the deadline to apply, but I asked for a cancellation slot, got it, walked in and won it. I’ve been told it was due to my original material and authentic delivery. I guess I was ready. It felt natural.
What is your most unique experience you have had as a result of your job?
Every time I speak, someone suggests I should write a book. People find my observations interesting as I have a very different angle on most things. One less busy October afternoon I sat down to write and got up 12 days later with a book. (I did sleep and eat in the process.) I thought this would be a nice little birthday present to myself, “The Secrets of a Professional Networker”. It appeared as an ebook one day before my birthday and it’s been available as a paperback since 1st December. I never really planned to write a book at all and it is a straightforward result of speaking.
Can you provide 3 tips for successful networking?
- Treat business networking not as a social event, but as a business event.
- Practice what you’re going to say and thoroughly prepare it in a shorter and longer version a few days before the event.
- Really listen to what the other person is saying; don’t waste “the listening time” on thinking what you’re going to say next. If you don’t listen, you won’t be able to give, and giving is what networking is all about.
Why do clients typically hire you to speak?
I’m often told that it’s refreshing to have a story-teller who is neither a sportsman nor a politician. I have a different take on life because of my seven careers and also because I’m a serious enemy of all nonsense and muddiness. I help find the clarity. Thanks to my background, I’m able to help organisations improve personal impact and resilience. As for opera, opera is just a job like any other job; I do sing better than an average businesswoman but I’m certainly not a diva.
What are your biggest goals in your life and career currently?
It’s important to me to help charities and I specifically admire The Prince’s Trust; I would love to speak or sing at their fundraisers. The next goal for my career is performing as a stand-up comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 and I’m just looking at suitable venues.
Who and what inspires you most?
I’m always inspired by anonymous kindness. It’s humbling and very beautiful. I see a lot of it in London. Just last month, I was coming home after a very tiring day and I tripped over my long coat going up the stairs on the tube in the evening rush hour. I was terrified that I’d be trampled to death by the speeding crowd. What actually happened, as I was hitting the ground, I was lifted up by three different people. They checked if I was alright and disappeared. All of the accident took about two seconds. No one stayed to be thanked: they helped a human in need and dissolved a potentially dangerous situation. Just like that.