Promoting healing & hope while your hands are still tied; the life of a public speaker in a pandemic
Updated: Dec 30, 2021
I’m going to be honest, I didn’t see it coming. I was living my best life, traveling and training. Back to back conferences criss-crossing Texas so many times I needed a monthly oil change for my Armada to keep up. It definitely got tiring learning to live out of a suitcase, but I had a mission. I became a teacher not for the money and fame, but for the children. I wanted every single child in my class to know that they were loved, and that they were cared for and that they mattered. As a man, I wanted to step into a predominantly female space, to fill a father-shaped hole that I knew was in the hearts of so many I saw come through my class. I dedicated my life to loving them every year, as hard they would let me, until someone showed me that as a teacher, I could touch 30 hearts a year. Then I realized if I learned how to train educators, who had their own class of 15-30 little lives every year, I could touch hundreds of thousands. Armed with that knowledge, I hung up my four square jersey, packed up my jars of glitter, buttons, feathers, and old magazines and left the classroom behind. Pre-pandemic, every time I stood before a crowd, of 10 or 10,000 my goal was the same. I reminded educators of their calling, and showed them how important it is to look past any bad behavior and see the broken child within.
Fast forward to March 2020, I had my last large conference of the year, and even had to drive across state lines to deliver my speech for it to be legal. I was the Keynote for that event, and the client who booked me had mentioned that they would be cancelling the next gig scheduled less than 30 days later. Over the next 2 weeks, my my once packed calendar, was completely obliterated. I wasn’t ready. The only calls I received were clients with bad news about dates all the way through the beginning of 2021. I am the King of Back Up Plans, but I had no backup plan for when it was illegal to meet in groups larger than 8. So I waited. I prayed. I did more than my fair share of renovations to the house, which is kind of crazy when you have no paycheck in the near future. It felt like the world, as I knew it was crumbling, and I could either let it break me, or I could let it build me. My friends in the education industry, were no longer just teachers, trainers, or directors. They were starting to work in the grocery stores, delivering food, doing anything possible to make sure their bills were paid, even while their centers were closing. I had a choice to make, I could either continue to spin my wheels and worry, or I put on my big boy pants and make a new business plan. There’s a line in one of my best known trainings, your Attitude Determines Your Altitude that says something to the effect of, things are going to happen to you, but it is how you react to them that will determine the outcome. With that in mind I started thinking. I thought for weeks about the best way to reposition my livelihood that would still be true to my calling. I invested in video equipment, microphones, in-ear monitors, and a ring light so that I could be seen well. I had my wife research video editing, and showed her a few styles I liked. I wasn’t being booked, but I could still be seen. I started my weekly web show, 2 minutes with Albert, on Youtube and Facebook Live. I learned what in the world Facebook live was. I watched hours of training on Zoom, and how to do breakout sessions, and how to keep the attention of participants even while virtual. I called schools and former clients and offered to consult. I helped them rebuilt programs from scratch. Sometimes, I wasn’t being paid to speak, but I knew that educators, more than anyone else, still needed to hear that they were valuable. I had an audience of the most essential “non-essential” workers in the entire country, and this new lane of web shows gave me a new platform to reach them. Once the centers and schools started to reopen and stopped needing training on virtual school, my calling was still clear. I needed to listen. Morale was at an all time low. Teachers had lost faith and leadership teams needed help rebuilding organizational trust. I took time to develop content that was new and necessary, to assist in the rebuilding of our field. I wrote trainings on safety that adjusted with each new rule or regulation that came down the pipeline. I wrote trainings on inspiring hope in others while your hands are still tied. I wrote about building the emotional connection even while wearing a mask. I built a new system of turn Key Trainings that handled everything from hosting and moderating the virtual event, creating dynamic flyers, marketing, attendance, chat logs, individualized certificates, and surveys, all tied up in a nice little package that became a best seller for some of our larger clients. I realized that as much as I love training face to face, I truly felt free training from my own desk wearing business attire from the waist up, and basketball shorts and flip flops down below. Better yet, my two little boys are thriving with all the father son adventures we would never have had time for with back to back to back conferences. The new Albert will always block off time in the schedule for that.
Calls for in person conferences have started coming in again, but we will definitely keep the virtual line of work open. I don’t miss the miles on the road, but I have missed being able to hug you guys.
I wish I could say this change was easy. I can definitely say it was worth it. Increasing flexibility can be painful, but it also increases your reach. We can’t do what we have always done, but we can celebrate the wins, no matter how small. We can rethink our goals, and realign our life’s work with our calling. As educators, what we do on a daily basis has lifelong implications, which far outlast the perils of 2020, through 2021 and into the future. We are changing and shaping the future, every time we speak life into a child, and that is exactly what rebuilds hope. - Be Blessed, Albert Wright