Behind the Scenes: Tips For Speaking Or Hosting A Retreat

Oh my goodness – I’ve had some really unique life experiences over the last few years. One time we spoke for 3 days in Washington D.C. as keynotes at a women’s retreat. One time we spoke for 3 days in West Virginia as key notes of a singles conference. I’ve spoken in Iceland, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Salt Lake City (Alt Summit), Oslo, Copenhagen, and Vermont. I’ve been interviewed on TV & radio several times including CNN, Martha Stewart Radio, and HuffPost Live. And now we’ve hosted two major Body + Soul retreats in Ecuador.
Whew. That is a lot for a girl who grew up very, very shy. Yes! That was me! Literally terrified of public speaking!
I began to grow out of that a bit in high school when I worked at a wedding house and started orchestrating and leading wedding rehearsals for large wedding parties. I think my boss knew I was ahead of my game maturity wise (most thought I was in college) – so she was happy to have me lead those events. And I was happy about it, too – it was possibly the best experience this 16 year-old could have ever had.
I grew out of my fears a bit more in college. I didn’t know what to major in and decided to at least work on something I needed desperately – so I majored in Communication because I knew I would have to do a lot of public speaking. And I did. I sucked at it at times, but also got better and better.
I have certainly come a long, long way. And I’m so very grateful.
Here are a few things I now live by when I speak at an event:
1) I remind myself over and over that: “I Already Know the Information!” 
I know it backwards and forwards. I’ve been refining these principles for nearly the last 10 years and writing about them for nearly 4 years. I don’t have to worry about what might come out in the moment, because I know our topics like the back of my hand. I live them. I was transformed by them. And I have seen miracles happen by thousands of other people who are applying the principles, too. 
2) I deliberately try to not over plan
This means I purposefully do not have every last word planned out. I am better now at trusting that the BEST things will come out when I am fully engaged in the moment and not reading my notes or trying to fit my message into a check box that I previously had planned. I go in knowing the main topic very, very well, of course, and knowing what main points I want to cover. And then I leave lots of room for my own words to flow. (Danny has been a great coach in this regard. I so appreciate his  reminders to TRUST myself.) 
3) I eat well & eat my greens to be VIBRANT
I want to be as vibrant as possible when I speak! So I take care of my body and try to EAT WELL! We’re talking no sugar, gluten, dairy, processed foods – none – and most especially not within a couple of weeks of a retreat or event. I live by this mantra: “If I eat crap, I’ll feel like crap, and I’ll look like crap.” And that is the truth! If I have any gluten/dairy by accident (say at a restaurant) or if I have sugar outside of my home for some reason, I literally feel sluggish- even coma like – and the next day I’ll wake up looking and feeling like I got hit by a truck. And my skin will likely break out, too, and just look overall unhealthy. So I try not to go near the stuff. Instead, I try to eat lots of rich vegetables, green smoothies, and green juice daily. These give me a major boost of energy. And they make my skin literally GLOW (so people tell me) and free of acne/dryness/redness/large pores/blotching. Without a doubt, my skin is the tell tale sign of my inner health. I know if my skin looks good and vibrant, my BODY also feels good and vibrant. (I took this photo right before people arrived and I felt like this all week.)

4) I try to conserve my energy!
I am getting better at having a team of people helping behind the scenes with the event so that all of my energy can go towards speaking, engaging, and being full of ENERGY for others. This is actually another reason why we decided to move our Ecuador retreat to Casa Mojanda. The property staff there is SPECTACULAR! We love them to pieces. Their professional help, combined with the help of our own incredible staff – seriously relieves Danny and I of hundreds of logistics. This allows me to have time for other things. For example: before our guests arrive or before each class, I try to take some time in my room and just build up a reserve of love and energy for everyone there. It works wonders. (This was me in my room preparing mentally right before I went to speak…)
5) I take Fish Oils for sharpness.
Yes – these do something to my brain! It’s crazy! Somehow they noticeably sharpen my creativity and sharpen my thinking which is so nice for me as a writer and a speaker. They’re also major anti-inflammatories and they also help with glowing skin, too. I can’t recommend them enough. (FYI, Metagenics is the brand I use and it’s super high quality.) 
6) I listen to uplifting music or meditations
Now, I am no expert with music. But it has a POWERFUL effect on me. I have a play list that is close to 10 years old that I began listening to when I first began to change my life. And whenever I dig up those old songs they still have an affect on me (I think more so because they just remind me of the most empowering time of my life).  I listened to these songs on the plane on our way there (while the Cotapaxi volcano was outside our window, no less!) And I listened to them in my room before key moments of the retreat. I would loooove to one day create a power music play list for you all! If you have ANY song suggestions, please, please let me know! 
7) I use essential oils.
This is actually a new thing I’ve been doing, and I’m quickly becoming a massive fan. At the retreat, before my classes I used a Young Living oil called JOY. And before bed I used one called PEACE & CALMING. I just loved the self-care ritual of using these oils. It’s hard to say exactly if it was all in my head or if these oils helped me directly, but I felt soooo much joy all week. I mean, just a ton of it. There was literally not a moment of stress which was really, really quite miraculous to me. 
8) I channel all the love and gratitude that has come my way.
I think of all the readers who have sent us letters thanking us for what we do. I try to use that kindness for good. I try to let it FUEL me to keep going – to keep giving my best. One of our guests brought me these beautiful dishes and I used them right away in our hotel room. They were a great reminder each day to love, love, love. (Thank you, K – you are so dear to me!)
9) If needed, I think of the ONE.
If I ever get overwhelmed by the thought of speaking to the masses or speaking to a large group of people, I try to visualize just one person – the one person out there that may really need to hear what I have to say. I try to write my blog posts to one person, too. This reduces so much pressure! And it helps me to feel more personable.  
10) I try to focus most of all on being a channel of light and love.
I remind myself that THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I CAN GIVE. To me, light and love is available to us all. It shines upon our heads equally, though at times in life it’s hard to receive it or feel it. (I’ve been there!) So I do my best to be able to be a receiver of that light and love so that I can FILL myself with it and then share it freely with others. (And I know others do the same for me.) I think this is the most beautiful offering we can give another human being. This is what helps people to heal and get back in touch with that light. This is what helped ME to heal when someone did this for me. To me this is more important than being a perfect speaker. It’s more important than what I’m wearing or my words. I don’t have to be anything or prove myself to anyone in order to offer this. This comes from my core. This comes from the part of me that is most connected to all of you and the part of me that tries to stay connected to something greater than us all.
Dear readers, have you been able to overcome the fears of public speaking? Do you have any tips? Please share! I know those who need it will just love to hear your thoughts.

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  1. mdtset March 2, 2015 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    Toastmasters International. Taught me to b real.

  2. Anonymous March 3, 2015 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    I would love to hear some of your recipes/ways to eat greens! I've been stuck on green smoothies and warm spinach salad. Thanks for continuing to be uplifting!

    • mara March 4, 2015 at 12:17 am - Reply

      Thx for the note. So – we get most of our greens in smoothies and green juice. We use spinach, parsley, cilantro, chard, celery (with tops), and kale (when we can find it here in EC.) We also make lots of salads (i'm not a huge salad person, actually, but we've found a particular homemade pesto basil dressing that I just LOVE and it now makes salad eating a treat.) We also sauté kale, spinach, or chard with olive oil, salt and pepper – then add chopped fresh garlic at the very end. We also add handfuls of chopped greens to all our soups (we add them at the very end so they stay bright green). We also make "green stir frys" with every leafy green we have on hand as well as broccoli and zucchini and green onion (sautéed in olive oil). Then add fresh chopped garlic at the end and top with fresh chopped basil. If you eat meat, in the past we added some italian sausage for flavor and it was quite good. We also add gobs of greens to our pizza. We make a gluten free crust, a very flavorful sauce, and then pile on the veggies. We don't even add cheese yet it's still quite good. And lastly, we make burrito bowls (black beans and brown rice as a base, then we PILE on greens and pico and lime/cabbage and salsa. Hope some of these ideas help! Yeah for more greens!

  3. Anonymous March 11, 2015 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all the great ideas! I look forward to trying them out and will be praying for you and Danny!

  4. Rachel Hunt March 14, 2015 at 10:12 pm - Reply


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