Lois Strachan – Inspirational Speaker
In September I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the Cape Society for the Blind’s AGM. As I listened to the CTSB’s CEO, Lizelle van Wyk, describe the programmes they offer their students I realized how much the organisation empowers people who may be marginalized due to their visual impairment.
I was thrilled when CTSB asked me to speak at two other events for them – their student graduation and a fund-raiser auction they were planning.
The Mad Hatter’s Auction Party took place on Saturday, 24 November. And what a fun event it was – with MC Kevin Abbott entertaining us while skillfully keeping the evening moving forward, the animated Joey Burke serving as a professional and highly efficient auctioneer, and friends and family of the team at CTSB all working together to raise much needed funds to ensure more students are able to benefit from the training the CTSB offers. And how wonderful it was for me to be able to play a small part in helping to raise R200000 to benefit CTSB and the 3 other beneficiaries.
Of course, it would have been even better if I’d been able to find my cherry red hat – after all, it was a Mad Hatter’s party. But I guess you can’t have everything!
The photo shows me up on stage during my speech, and here are links to a Facebook live video that Craig shot during my speech, and an article from the Cape Times on 27 November about the event.
Facebook live video: https://www.facebook.com/lois.strachan/videos/10156118292318391/
Cape Times article: https://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/news/r200-000-raised-to-help-the-blind-at-auction-18273600
Don’t get me wrong – I love sharing my story and inspiring audiences to see their lives and their challenges in a different way as an inspirational speaker. It’s always a privilege to be given the opportunity to do so. But equally important to me is the opportunity of speaking to business audiences about the capabilities of people who are so often marginalised in the job market because of the misperceptions about disability.
Which is why I was so delighted to tackle the topics of the barriers faced by people living with disabilities at the Cape Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast event a fortnight ago. Being able to address a subject that is so close to my heart with my ideal audience was like receiving a gift!
Speaking to the members of the Cape Chamber of Commerce was a great experience –the group of over 50 people were clearly engaged with the information I was sharing and I received some great questions afterwards.
The most exciting aspect for me was how interested people seemed in making their products and services inclusive to those with disabilities, whether it be in making their websites more accessible to visually impaired customers, or in understanding how to make their workplaces accessible to those with a mobility impairment. And we touched on a related topic that’s very close to my heart – that of increasing employment of persons with disabilities.
My hope is that I’ll have the opportunity of engaging more with members of the Cape Chamber, either as a group or in their individual capacities, whether it’s to give them information on the accessibility of their websites, facilitate an assessment of the physical accessibility of their workspace, or to come and speak (formally or informally) to their teams about disability, diversity and inclusion.
My thanks to Bruce Wade and Linda Roopen for giving me the opportunity of speaking to members of the Cape Chamber of Commerce. I certainly hope it won’t be the last time I do so! XXXXX
I’ve lost count of the organisations, schools, community groups, and events that Fiji and I have spoken at on behalf of the South African Guide-Dogs Association since we started working together. Each event is special in its own way – from the pre-schoolers who will make a semblance of listening politely while desperately curbing their excitement till they can play with Fiji, to the recent 60th birthday party where the guests were asked to make a contribution to Guide-Dogs in lieu of birthday gifts. But I think the most memorable Guide-Dogs Association event I’ve been asked to speak at has to be the annual World Sight Day fundraising dinner in October last year. It was a glittering event and Fiji and I were proud that we were able to play a small role in helping to raise R800 000 for this amazing cause.
I suspect the Women’s Day lunch on 18 August will be another such glittering event. And, since Fiji and I will be sharing the stage with a woman whose work I really admire – Abigail K, The Confidence Crusader – I can only imagine what a fun and inspiring day it’s going to be. Avril, who’s organizing the event tells me there will be some exciting raffle and spot prizes and, from the few she’s mentioned, I agree they’re pretty awesome!
Details for the event are in the attached flyer.
I really hope you’ll be able to take a break from your busy schedules and join us for a relaxed and uplifting ladies luncheon for an amazing cause.
And, if that’s not reason enough, I’m sure there will be plenty guide dogs and guide dogs in training in attendance to make the whole experience just that little bit more special – I know for sure that Fiji will be there!
I believe one of the characteristics of a great leader is the ability to make people feel seen, heard and acknowledged. This was a skill that the late Nelson Mandela demonstrated regularly, as can be seen from the numerous stories of the way he engaged with people from all walks of life.
Tomorrow marks the centenary of the birth of the great Madiba and I’d like to mark the occasion by sharing the stories of the times I was privileged to meet the great man himself.
My first chance encounter with Mr. Mandela took place in the Student Union at the University of KwaZulu-Natal shortly before I lost my sight. At the time I was still able to walk around without a mobility aid, as long as I was careful where I put my feet – I could still see everything but everything was blurred, as if I was looking at the world through a thick pane of frosted glass. As I navigated my way down a short flight of stairs I realized that I had very nearly placed my boot-clad foot down on someone’s shoe.
I looked up with an apology poised on my lips – and found myself staring into the face of the great man himself. Those of you who know me well will know that I’m seldom speechless but the words of the glib apology I’d been about to utter simply vanished from my mind.
Mr. Mandela smiled and softly murmured “Bless you, my child,” and then entered the hall where throngs of students had gathered to hear him speak. ,
Two years later Mr. Mandela capped me when I graduated. By then I was totally blind and needed sighted assistance as I crossed the vast stage, was capped by Madiba and then moved to collect my degree to thunderous applause. Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, friends told me later that there had been two standing ovations at that graduation ceremony – one when we were addressed by Madiba and one when I was capped. And yes, I did manage to avoid standing on his toes that time!
What I remember best about those two chance meetings was the sense of calm and serenity that surrounded Madiba, and the way he made me feel like I had his complete attention with just the power of his presence, his focus, and a few simple yet genuine words. On both occasions I was merely one person amongst hundreds of others, yet he made me feel seen and acknowledged – a lesson that each of us in a position of leadership can learn and strive to emulate.
I still find it amazing what a strong impression those two brief encounters had on me – a lesson in the power of true and genuine leadership and the importance of truly being able to see, hear and acknowledge the people with whom we come into contact, no matter in how trivial a way.
Next time I’ll start sharing some experiences from my recent travels to Germany and Poland – it’s been a month since I returned so it’s high time I let you into some of my adventures!
Monday was the first meeting of the new Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa year, and my first as President of the Cape Chapter.
After years of volunteer leadership through Toastmasters International you’d think I’d be immune to the anxiety of leading a new team through our first event, but somehow that anxiety never goes away. I think it’s something to do with me wanting to ensure that all the attendees gain value from the event.
Of course, I should have known there was no need for me to feel nervous. On the one hand I couldn’t have asked for a more motivated, efficient and willing team, and on the other hand, the interactions I’d had with the main keynote presenter left me in no doubt that he would offer immense value.
And so it was – everyone on the team went over and above the call of duty to ensure the event ran smoothly and I firmly believe every attendee left with real techniques of how to focus their marketing to grow their brand.
Sincere thanks to Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman for demonstrating some simple yet effective techniques to use on our websites and marketing materials, to our MC Bradley Day, and to our 5-minute speaker Chris Adlam for the value they offered our members and attendees. And to the PSASA Cape Chapter team – Hani du Toit, Ian Hatton, Sisanda Dlakavu and Chris Adlam – for all their hard work in preparation for the meeting.
And, of course, Fiji was more than happy to walk me up to the speaking area and back to my seat like the great guide dog she is… though I suspect the treats I promised her also helped. I was amused when she flatly refused to find the door out of the room so we could go to the main entrance to let in a latecomer, But after an attendee graciously helped me through the doorway, Fiji’s fine training clicked back into place and she assisted me perfectly I guess she was just reluctant to miss any of what Waldo was sharing with us!
Do I think Monday will mean I won’t be anxious for future meetings? Probably not entirely. But I will have the confidence of having had a successful inaugural event, and the certainty that I have an amazing team working with me.
Oh, and many thanks to Charlotte Kemp for presenting me with a bottle of wine on behalf of the Past Chapter Presidents to wish me a successful year at the helm of the Cape Chapter – the gesture was very much appreciated!
Don’t ask me why but for some reason I neglected to post the link to the presentation I gave at the accidentalmuslims.com conference that took place in Cape Town on 30 August last year.
Wasn’t that something of an oversight, I hear you say?
Well yes, but better late than never!
So, here’s a link to the video of my presentation – I hope you enjoy what I shared with the delegates!
It’s become something of a tradition for me to reflect on the past 12 months in my first post of the new year and to consider what I’d like the coming year to hold for me. As I’ve done in the past, I want to reiterate that this isn’t about resolutions or goals for the year. It’s merely me thinking aloud on paper about what I’d like to see happen in my business in the foreseeable future.
Looking back to my first post of 2017 I wrote about my amazement that I’d achieved so many of the items I’d laid out as intentions in January 2016, despite not consciously having done so. I found exactly the same thin when I looked back at my first post from 2017 – it’s almost like those intentions had been sitting in the back of my mind and subtly shaping everything I did last year.
2017 was a year in which I clarified the area I want to work in – namely explaining how people who are differently abled accomplish tasks to facilitate our inclusion into society and the workplace, and to build relationships with the various role-players in that sector. Certainly that was the focus of much of my speaking and the media opportunities that came my way, many of which I’ve already shared with you. I’ve also started making better use of different technologies and, as you’ll no doubt agree, this will be a continuous focus since technology is constantly changing.
Here’s where I set a few of my intentions for 2018:
- Start working on my next book – whatever that turns out to be
- Continue Building and consolidating my brand
- Extend my network of those working in the disability sector to leverage real and tangible change
- Continue experimenting with new technologies and using them to build my business
And so, let’s see what the new year brings…
May I wish you everything of the best for 2018 – let’s hope it is a positive, productive and profitable year for us all!
Here’s another audio recording – this time of a presentation I gave at the Helen Keller Society residential home in March this year. In some ways March doesn’t’ seem that long ago, but in other ways well, let’s just say that it’s almost a lifetime!
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of talking to the residents and answering the diverse questions I was asked afterwards. I was even asked to sing and, of course, my mind went blank and I couldn’t think of a single song! At least I learned from that experience and now always have a song prepared… just in case.
What really startled me when I was editing the recording was that, despite the full recording being over an hour, my actual presentation was just over 16 minutes. It felt a lot longer when I was talking!
It’s also quite an early presentation on this topic, and perhaps a little more introspective than my current speeches about what helped me move forwards with my life following my blindness. It feels more like a conversation with friends than a formal presentation – but that may just be my impression. You’ll have to judge for yourself.
After this speech, the Helen Keller Society invited me to be the guest speaker at their AGM, which I did a few months later… but that’s an entirely different story…
What do you get if you put close to 200 dog lovers and approximately 20 cute, beautiful, adorable dogs (can you tell I’m one of those dog lovers?) into the ballroom of Kelvin Grove, in Cape Town?
You get an amazing evening of fun and inspiration that results in sufficient donations to train 8 more guide dogs in the Cape Town area. Sure, you get a little chaos with that number of dogs, but they’re all under the watchful eyes of their humans and the trainers so it’s fairly constrained.
The SA Guide-Dogs Association receives no government funding, nor is it able to benefit from the lottery since… apparently… it is considered an animal charity rather than a human charity. So this kind of fund-raising event is key to the continuing good work being done by Guide-Dogs.
I was privileged to be asked to be the guest speaker at the dinner and loved every second of the event. It’s certainly the first time I’ve ever been heckled by a dog while speaking. But that added to the fun!
Fiji really enjoyed socializing with the many other guide dogs and guide dogs-in-training that attended – from Andy, an adorable 12-week old Labrador who managed to fall asleep while he was making his stage debut, to the more refined gentleman, O’Reilly who is a lot older but still a fine working dog and is a dedicated member of the Guide-Dogs PR team, as is his human Pieter.
and, of course, Fiji loved being able to greet all the young, boisterous and energetic guide dogs of around her own age.
I want to commend SA Guide-Dogs Association in Cape Town for this marvelous event. I was truly proud to be a part of it and of the guide dogs community.
With thanks to Margaret Hirsch for the photograph of me speaking!
PS: There are rumours of an audio recording of my speech… but Fiji and I will need to investigate so don’t tell anyone yet
Have you ever opened your mouth and been totally flummoxed by what comes out? What? That’s never happened to you? I don’t believe it!
Here’s a link to a presentation I gave about how assistive technology has changed the lives of people with visual impairments… and the challenge of growing the numbers of persons with disabilities in employment. The presentation was given at the AFRINEAD conference I attended in Ghana in August this year.
As for that verbal slip… well, it was more than just a slip… Yes, I truly do know the attack on the Twin Towers in New York was in 2001 and not 2011 … but somehow that’s just what came out on the day!
Hopefully my mistake didn’t detract from the message I was trying to make … You’ll have to listen and judge for yourself!