Interview with Linda Larsen
How do audiences generally describe your talks?
Words used by audience members to describe my presentations are things like, “hysterically funny, high-energy, inspiring, thought-provoking, fun, entertaining, full of surprises.” Meeting planners say things like, “Exceeded my expectations, highly professional and great to work with, she made me look really good for choosing her.”
What is the most unique experience you have had as a result of your job?
Probably the most unique experience I’ve had as a motivational speaker was when I did a keynote presentation for 17,000 teenagers and young adults in an annual Future Farmers of America Convention. It was a total out-of-body experience. I was on an enormous stage in terrifically bright lights. All 17,000 people were in the complete dark, in a HUGE stadium so I couldn’t see OR hear them! They were so far away from me that when they laughed, I simply couldn’t hear it. I would say something really funny and all I could hear was crickets. I just kept going – giving it all the fun and happy energy I had, hovering over myself, cheering myself on. Afterwards I was repeated told that people “never laughed so hard” in all their lives.
What is your biggest source of inspiration?
I gain most of my inspiration from regular people who have overcome huge obstacles to create joy, happiness and success in their lives. To see someone who has had circumstantial, physical, emotional or mental challenges – and who has risen above it all emerging victorious (in whatever way they define “victory” is very inspiring to me. The power of the human spirit is amazing.
How do you prepare for speaking engagements?
I prepare for my speaking engagements by first conversing at length to the person who hired me. I want to know exactly what objectives they have for me, how they want their attendees to feel when I’m done, how they want them to think and what they want them to be able to do differently. I want to know specifically what results they want. I’ll suggest a few topics I think might produce those results. I’ll then ask to speak to 3 or 4 people who will be representative of those in attendance. I want to see into their world. I want to hear from them. Things like what they love about their job, and/or their life, what they think their biggest challenges are and what they wish they could do better or differently.
I’ll then get to work on the presentation. I’ll take the topic the meeting planner wants, and tailor it to their group. Using examples that they can relate to, I’ll create a fun, energetic, content-rich presentation that will leave people inspired, energized and ready to take specific actions to create better quality results in their life. My belief is that when audience members are fully engaged, they hear more of the presentation, have a higher level of retention, and more consistently apply the ideas. And the best way to engage an audience is with fun, laughter, interaction, rich stories and examples they can relate to.
What is your best advice for overcoming obstacles?
My biggest advice for overcoming obstacles comes from a first-hand experience I was gifted with as a young woman, and it’s this: Each and every one of us, EVERY ONE OF US, is far stronger, more resilient and resourceful than we think – in our ability to tackle life’s problems. Accordingly, if we are to capitalize on this principle, we need to change the way we VIEW our challenges. As a young woman I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, clinical depression and a terrifyingly strong pull toward suicide. I was married, divorced, worked as a receptionist at a law office and had a 2 year old baby boy.
On a cold December morning, when I was at my absolute lowest, and felt I could not possibly make it for another day, I once again fought the feelings of hopelessness and terror and dragged myself to work. At 11:30 a.m. a man burst through the front door wearing a convict prison uniform, brandishing a .357 Magnum. It turns out he was an escaped convict from a road gang several blocks away. After taking one of the attorney’s money and car keys, he left, took me hostage and held me at gunpoint for over 5 hours. Yes, this was a nightmarish experience. Yes, I was beyond terrified. But a few very interesting things happened.
1) My “innovative problem-solving brain” kicked into high gear and helped me find a way to escape. I mentally examined, at breakneck speed, what felt like thousands of escape options before finally choosing one that worked. 2) After I escaped and recovered from the shock of the experience, I came to realize that I may not have had control over what happened to me, but I absolutely had control over how I wanted to view it all, what meaning I wanted to give the experience. I could decide that this experience was what I deserved. That obviously I was a bad person and this was what happened to bad people. I could choose to hide for the rest of my life, never trust anyone and live in fear.
OR – I could choose to view this experience as the greatest gift I would ever receive in my entire life. I could decide that if it had not been for this experience, I would have succumbed to my illness and taken my own life. I could also elect to applaud myself for how incredibly resourceful and determined I was, in terms of my escape. I could choose, from that moment forth, to tell myself, “Linda, if you could do all that, on the very day you almost killed yourself, girl, you can do anything!!!” That is the choice I made, and is the choice I encourage others to make.