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Author Archive

Investing In Women to Transform Community

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have reached out to a variety of female entrepreneurs to share their journey and give some insight on how to navigate building a business.

Joy McBrien is a global learner who is passionate about creating opportunities for women and girls.  She is the Founder and CEO of Fair Anita, a social enterprise that strives to build a more inclusive economy for women by providing economic opportunity and dignified jobs through beautiful fair trade jewelry and accessories.

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
I started my first jewelry business when I was about 15.  When I was 19, I worked with a group of local women in Chimbote, Peru to build a battered women’s shelter.  What I’m doing now has sort of combined these two experiences, working with survivors of sexual or domestic violence around the world to create fair trade jewelry!

What are your current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
I run a social enterprise called Fair Anita. We sell fair trade jewelry and accessories made by over 8,000 women, primarily survivors of violence.  Financial insecurity is the #1 reason why women stay with abusive partners, so when we’re able to provide fair and sustainable jobs, women are able to thrive with financial freedom.

What are the most important things to consider when starting a new idea / venture or start up?
When starting a social enterprise, it’s important to consider if your idea is actually beneficial and really needed by the population you’re trying to serve. If they’re not 100% on board, it isn’t going to work.

As a women in the industry what opportunities or barriers have you experienced?
As a young woman entrepreneur, I have found that I have to prove myself before people take me seriously.  Sometimes my work is belittled as being “cute” or “oh that’s nice, you sell jewelry,” rather than being taken seriously as a profitable business that’s doing good in the world.

What women have made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
So many women have deeply impacted my entrepreneurial journey.  Irene Fernando was one of the first female leaders I met that seemed to always lead as her authentic self—it showed me  that I could represent myself in the way that felt best to me, rather than trying to fit others’ expectations.  Anna Bottila was our first full-time hire, the best decision I ever made.  She’s so deeply committed to our mission, and our growth would not be possible without her, my “other half,” if you will. And, of course, Anita Caldas, the woman behind the name of Fair Anita. Anita taught us that when you invest in women, you have the power to transform entire communities, and she inspired a lot of our mission.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
If you fully believe in your idea and know what you’re doing to be right, give yourself permission to blindly follow that passion. If other people think you’re crazy, you’re on to something great.

What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
Good for you!  You’ve learned what it feels like to fail.  Reflect on this experience, maybe journal about it, and figure out what are your big learnings that will go forward with you.

What is different about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
I love that Minnesota has a heightened focus on social and environmental mission when it comes to entrepreneurialism.  There are so many social entrepreneurs, social enterprises, mission-driven businesses, nonprofits—a wonderful mix of organizational structures, but everyone is on a mission to do good in the world!

Has the Hill center played a role in your success as a female entrepreneur?
The One Million Cups program at the Hill center is such a unique opportunity to share our work and get feedback on where we are headed.

What is your “superpower”?
I like to think of empathy as my superpower. It certainly has shaped much of the work I do today!

To learn more about Fair Anita please visit their website or follow them on Twitter @fair_anita

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Beautiful Solutions to Everyday Problems

In celebration of Women’s History Month we have reached out to a variety of female entrepreneurs to share their journey and give some insight on how to navigate building a business.

Marj Weir is a designer and innovator with extensive experience and a creative entrepreneurial background. Her mission is to create beautiful solutions to everyday problems.

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
I started as a freelance graphic designer over 30 years ago, though I worked part time at the State for insurance and a steady paycheck. In 2004 I quit to get my product, Prep & Serve to market. My husband at the time had a great job as a chef, but later was let go. We filled out time rehabbing homes, opened Sail Away Cafe, and I also did real estate on the side.

Current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
My current products are PrepAndServe.com, EZBarBox.com and EZLightWraps.com. Last week I met potential licensing partners and investors at the International Housewares Show in Chicago. This weekend, I’m at the Minneapolis Convention Center for EZLightWraps.com in the Twin Cities Women’s Expo, then the Home and Garden Show the following two weekends.

Most important things to consider when starting a new venture or start up?
Partner with others with dissimilar talents early on – it is a long road ahead. Do research and ask yourself is there a market? Do research at the Hill! Join Meet-ups and trade groups, from competitive products or ventures. Survey people – share your ideas to get real feedback.

As a women in the industry what opportunities or barriers have you experienced?
It’s amazing to me that men totally run the housewares industry, where most products are used by women. I was told early on – ‘you need a penis to play in that field’ – they were not kidding. There is change, but slow. What I saw last week at the Housewares show are more product startups, many founded by women. Personally, I’ve had more men than women help move things forward.

What women have made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
My mother, who is very creative; my friend Angie Polacek, who co-founded a manufacturing company and invested in rehabbing homes with me; and Marie Forleo’s B School has been a great resource.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
Keep track of connections and categorizing them. Someone may be the person you need down the line and it is frustrating to lose track of them.

What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
In the entrepreneurial world failure is not looked down upon, it depends on what you learned from the experience and where you went after. Remember it is the journey, not the end!

What is different about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Still mostly male, medical and tech, but it is great to be in the Midwest, feels safe and people like to help.

Has the Hill center played a role in your success as a female entrepreneur?
Yes, I’m armed with the research to validate ideas. I’ve spoken several times at 1 Million Cups and continue to meet great connections that way.

To find out more information about Marj Weir Products please visit marjweirproducts.strikingly.com.

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The Hill All Starr

When then-head librarian Joseph Pyle hired “Miss Helen K. Starr, of the Library of Congress” as head cataloger in 1918, he probably didn’t suspect he was hiring the woman who would see the Hill Reference Library through its arguably most significant era.

Pyle recognized Starr’s skills: “Miss Starr has had unusually valuable experience and comes with the highest recommendations from those familiar with her work.” But we don’t need to take his word for it.

As the first Hill cataloger, Starr had the immense duty of creating a cataloging system out of nothing. Fortunately, her experience as a head cataloger at the prestigious Library of Congress meant she was up to the task.

When Pyle passed away in 1930, Starr was the clear successor as head librarian, and she stayed in that role (while still continuing as head cataloger) until her retirement in 1948. Not only was she the longest-running head librarian here at the Hill, but she also saw the library through the challenges of the Great Depression and World War II—and seized the opportunities presented by these hardships, resulting in our highest visitation ever in 1941.

Starr responded directly to the needs of community. When the St. Paul Central Public Library began reducing hours during the Depression, Starr chose to expand our collection to provide ample reading material for students. She also increased the Hill’s open hours and purchased new furniture, creating a “40 percent increase in the seating capacity” (only to be followed by more such purchases throughout her tenure). In addition to filling the gap for the public library’s regular visitors, Starr also remarked that “many young men prepared for Civil Service examinations while others studied in the Library in connection with WPA projects.”

These changes were appreciated: “Many unemployed men have had their courage renewed, their outlook broadened and their understanding of complex economic phenomena clarified by constant reading and study at the Library.”

In 1935, Starr had air conditioning installed, a system which used artesian well water circulated throughout the building (much more affordable than mechanical cooling), meriting a praiseful article in Heating, Piping and Air Conditioning.

During the Second World War, Starr faced new challenges. While admittedly there was “no expectation of air raids” here in St. Paul, Starr saw it as her duty to take precautions. An air raid shelter was created in the ground level, and blackout curtains hung through the library. European periodicals were becoming difficult to maintain, specifically—and not surprisingly—the highly-regarded German chemistry journals.

During the war, libraries nationwide, and at the Hill, suffered large drops in attendance, at least partially because many people were being drawn to service and the armed forces. However, Starr did notice an increase in scientists and engineers from local war plants coming in to use our resources. The Hill continued its role of being a place for people to come, learn, and apply their knowledge to improve the community.

Join us at the Hill to hear from other trailblazing female leaders.  Our program Taking the Lead is a series of free discussions exploring the complex and rewarding ecosystem of women entrepreneurs. Compelling topics moderated by some of the Twin Cities most recognized leaders and joined by diverse panels of professionals sharing their insights, perspectives and experiences. The next discussion will be on April 20th with moderator Jamie Millard, Executive Director of Pollen, as she and her panel discuss Women: The New Rules.  


Written by Ann Mayhew, Reference & Support Specialist, at the James J. Hill Center, and adapted from a blog post by Leah Kodner. If you have more questions about the reference library or our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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It All Adds Up: Finding My Why

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. She shares her thoughts and experiences with us in her monthly blog series “It All Adds Up.”

If I can take a moment to be transparent with you, I can tell you that this blog post was very difficult to write. It wasn’t difficult to write because of uncertainty or lack of understanding. It was difficult to write because during the last several weeks I have found myself in that place of “in-between.” It’s that place on the road to destiny that lies somewhere between I can clearly articulate my purpose and I have experienced some measure of success and the place where I can’t reach the required next steps for business growth and the demands of business ownership feel heavy. It’s the place where I realize it’s time to move out of my comfort zone and transition to something bigger.

Although the times of transition and the seasons of “in-between” can be the source of notable discomfort and growing pains, I have discovered those times are ripe with opportunities for advancement and clarity. It is during the unsettling times of transition I come face to face with the “why” of the work I do rather than the “what” I do.

While there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” template to defining your why or discovering your purpose, the process is much simpler than we think. In the past, when I thought about purpose, I often felt overwhelmed. The mere thought of articulating my purpose felt intimidating and mysterious and for many years, I settled for a life and business filled with busyness, but void of depth and meaning. I knew there was more to life, so I decided to lean into the difficult places and begin the search within.

Over the next several months, I will share some of the highlights of my discovery through the transition of my cookie company, Favorable Treats. As I continue to strive for alignment between what I do and why I am driven to do it, I have to be comfortable with making necessary changes.

My company, Favorable Treats will soon have a new name, a new website, and a clearly defined purpose. While these changes were difficult, the reality of connecting to something bigger and making an impact is life changing and meaningful.

I would love to hear from you. How does your “what I do” align with your “why?” Please send me an email or connect with me on social media. I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation.

You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram




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In 1921, the James J. Hill Reference Library’s Board of Directors opened the library to the public. The physical structure was completed in 1916, and the St. Paul Public Library next door had been open since 1917.

Head librarian Joseph Pyle double-downed on acquiring the books he felt were necessary for opening. He and the board also fine-tuned their vision for the library: a “Library of Libraries.” It was their goal to create a collection of books other libraries simply did not have and were unable to order – based on the demand Pyle was already receiving from various scholars for certain books, while still serving the general public with fundamental reference materials.

On December 20, 1921, the doors to the Hill Library officially opened to the public. Attendance exceeded expectations, and it wasn’t just sightseers, “Within an hour after the doors were opened to the public, actual work was being done at the study tables and questions were being answered by the Reference Librarian. From the very beginning the Library was put to use.” High attendance continued into 1922 and it was estimated that 75% of visitors were students and readers, which meant the Hill was fulfilling its purpose.

As attendance grew, so did our book collection. Early on in 1922, Pyle noted that, “Books are still arriving from orders unfilled at the rate of approximately 1000 volumes per month.” Plans began getting made for adding the two-tier stacks to the second story since “at present rate of increase, the available shelf room will soon be exhausted.” Pyle invited in Snead & Company representatives to come and give an estimate. This company had made and installed the 3-tier shelves on the first floor, and it was important to Pyle to rehire them “in order to preserve the beauty and harmony of the building.”

Our first year was, without a doubt, a success. Total attendance for the year was over 8,000 people, averaging approximately 28 people per day—much more than Mr. Hill’s once-predicted eight people a day!

To celebrate the anniversary of the opening on Dec. 20, 1922, the library hours extended into the evening, which proved to be very popular—the library continued staying open until 10:00PM off and on throughout its early years. This necessitated the installation of a lantern outside the front door, which was dutifully ordered at the end of 1922.

Our first year open set a precedent we’re more than happy to fulfill today by providing access to expert business librarians, specialized databases, and a calendar full of professional development and cultural programs. While we no longer hold regular evening hours, our exterior lantern still draws entrepreneurs, researchers, and sightseers to our door during dreary winter days and special evening events.

Written by Ann Mayhew, Reference & Support Specialist, at the James J. Hill Center, and adapted from a blog post by Leah Kodner. 
If you have more questions about the reference library or our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Leveraging the Hill

The James J. Hill Center is continually appreciative to the individuals that visit and discover the amazing resources we have to offer. In an ongoing effort to spread the word about what resources are available at the Hill and how they can be used, we have decided to share some of our patron’s stories on how they have leveraged the Hill for their success. Thanks to Ross Manthei for sharing his insight on our “not-so-secret” resources. 

How did you hear about the Hill and when did you start coming?
About 10 years ago I was talking to my best friend about his new sales job and this “secret resource” he found that he was convinced was going to “push him over the top” with quality info on his prospects.  I was doubtful at first and thought the James J. Hill Library (now the James J. Hill Center) was actually (perhaps) tucked inside the James J Hill house on Summit (by the way…it’s not).  I decided to check it out because I heard it was great for entrepreneurs to help them get kick started with their events and remembered what my friend told me.

What is your business or career?
Like most, I try to be the Dos Equis man with having many different interests and sometimes needing to dial that in.  I work in sales for a financial institution today consulting with middle market companies on payment products as well as payment technologies to help their businesses.  It requires a large amount of inside research to have relevant & intelligent conversations to which why I’m thankful to James J. Hill.  Outside of that, I have an baby care line of products that I’m launching called “Giggles and Poo,” am launching a podcast called “The Journey with Ross” and would like to also try my hand at stand-up comedy.  As I said, a  Renaissance millennial man – ha!  Honestly, I just like laughing and helping people.

How have you leveraged the Hill center resources and how are they unique?
I have used the business reference librarians let’s say probably more than most (Jessica is awesome) to help with things like what databases to use for researching things like info on private companies (Privco), prospect lists (A-Z databases) and also have leveraged the new business start-up networking.  Plus, the library is just a beautiful and quiet place to hang if you’re doing work.

How has the Hill been critical to your success?
It’s saved me thousands of dollars to get data and also a lot of frustration in the trust of data.

What recommendations do you have for other researchers and entrepreneurs?
There’s many places claiming to have “free” information when in fact they’re just trying to “sell you something.”  At the end of the day, James J. Hill Center is a secret gem that is perfect for a deeper level of research than you would normally get at a community library.  I’m sure those people can be helpful and are fantastic; however, I’ve never met so many people willing to help without tons of long lines!

The other piece of advice that I would share is mentoring is key.  There are many events at James J Hill Center where you can meet many other people who are very generous with their knowledge.

What is the one thing that makes you keep coming back to the Hill?
The willingness to help, the amazing free access to resources and the beautiful space!

The James J. Hill Center connects business, entrepreneurs and community to research, knowledge and network. Visit us Monday through Thursday from 8:00AM to 4:00PM to find out how we can help you succeed. 

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The Ice Palace Rises: History of the Winter Carnival

As the 2018 St. Paul Winter Carnival ice palace rises up in front of us in Rice Park, our staff has been feeling especially inspired to revisit the past while planning for festivities in the upcoming weeks.

The Winter Carnival has long held the interest of Hill Center staff. We recently discovered an essay on winter sports and the carnival penned by Anna Heilmaier, one of the Hill’s earliest librarians who worked here for nearly 40 years. She notes the extraordinary nature of our chilly festivities: “The earliest winter carnivals in St. Paul were no less gay than those of recent years, judging by contemporary accounts,” and cites national admiration for our ice palaces: “the fame of St. Paul’s ice palace goes back more than fifty years.”

What Heilmaier doesn’t mention in her short piece was the Hill’s connection with the Winter Carnival via Louis W. Hill, James J. Hill’s son.

The idea of starting a Winter Carnival came from an unexpected source. In the fall of 1885, several newspaper reporters from the eastern U.S. visited Minnesota, and their resulting articles painted a picture of a frozen, uninhabitable wasteland. James J. Hill and other prominent businessmen wanted to correct this negative image and to draw more visitors and settlers to the area. To this end, they came up with the idea of the Winter Carnival, designed to show onlookers that Minnesota is fun and livable, even in the middle of winter.

The Winter Carnival was put on 1886 through 1888, and then was not held again until 1896. After this, there was a 20 year lull. In 1916, Louis W. Hill entered the story, helping to resurrect the Carnival. As a result of his efforts, he was asked to serve as Carnival president in 1916 and 1917. Louis W. Hill remained interested in the Winter Carnival for the remainder of his life, and offered his support to the next Carnival revivals between 1937 and 1942.

During the 1940s and 1950s—and perhaps during other years left unrecorded in our archives—the Hill Reference Library (now the James J. Hill Center) would close early for the Vulcan Victory Parade. Our records don’t state the specific reason for closing early, but we like to think it was for staff and guests to join in on the festivities.

As we anticipate the next three weeks and the People’s Palace across the street, we here at the Hill find ourselves agreeing with Heilmaier’s parting sentiment:

“However much St. Paul’s winter carnival may change outwardly in conformity with changing times and styles, two factors remain constant: crisp white Minnesota winters and the spirit of good fun and fellowship.”

Stop in at the James J. Hill Center during Winter Carnival to warm up with free hot beverages, activities and special discounts. Check our calendar for more details.

Written by Ann Mayhew, Reference & Support Specialist, at the James J. Hill Center, and adapted from a blog post by Leah Kodner
If you have more questions about the reference library or our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Wait Training: Top 5 Pieces of Advice for a Successful Year End

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. Junita has learned the value of “waiting” during her years as an entrepreneur and business owner and shares her experiences with us each  month.

If you have followed this monthly blog series, then you already know that this series is less about the instructional tips of starting and growing your business, and everything about my personal journey of finding my way as an entrepreneur. Wait Training is sort of an odd theme for a business blog series, but over the last twelve years, my entrepreneurial journey has been all about finding value, learning patience and gaining strength from every step along the way.

Over the last twelve years, I’ve met great leaders, and learned valuable lessons. As I prepare to wrap up another year in business, I spent some time reflecting on some of the best pieces of advice I have received from business leaders along the way.

Here are my top five…

  1. Begin With a Plan, End With Reflection

Dreaming, planning and drafting a vision for your business is the fuel that charges entrepreneurs. We reach for the stars, we dream up the impossible and we recruit a team of supporters who are willing to cheer us on along the way. Equally as important as drafting the plan is the practice of reviewing that same plan at year end. As entrepreneurs, it can be more exciting to remain in planning and dreaming mode, so we often overlook the importance of reflecting upon what worked, what needs to be changed and how do we grow based on results. Carve out enough time in your year end process for reflection.

  1. Self-care is Required

Entrepreneurs dream big and go hard, and social entrepreneurs add in immeasurable amounts of compassion. Entrepreneurs believe in their venture and are willing to dedicate limitless time to make things happen. Most entrepreneurs have a plan and a strategy to achieve success, but rarely do we find self-care included in that plan. Self-care is vitally important to longevity and satisfaction. When we ignore the importance of self-care, we are more likely to experience burnout. From carving out time to enjoy a hobby or scheduling a short vacation, self-care is required to maintain a healthy business and a healthy life.

  1. Ask for Help

Entrepreneurs create solutions. We solve problems. Whether based on necessity or personality, entrepreneurs are very skilled at managing multiple responsibilities to produce a desired outcome. Operating as a team of one for an extended period of time is the norm for many startup ventures. As growth happens, it can be very difficult to invite others into your journey…but it is required to scale up and for sustainability. Ending each year with a clear understanding of areas where you should ask for help and identifying specific resources is a valuable practice.

  1. Your Time is a Precious Commodity

We have all heard a million and one times over, time is the one thing you can never get back. That is so true and we have to begin to value time as the precious and limited resource it is. You can add to your team, you can earn more money, but you can’t add more time. It is important to take an assessment of how your time was spent over the year and make the necessary adjustments for a more productive new year.

  1. Never Give Up

When all is said and done…never give up on your dream. When you get to the end of the year, change will always be required. Prepare for it, adjust for it and grow from it, but never give up. From my heart, to your dream…you’ve got this! Here’s to a successful year end!

Happy Year End!

As always, Junita would love to hear from you. How do you prepare for a successful year end review? Click here to send her your process. You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website at favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.    

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Soft Skills Revolution: Befriending Chaos

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for the Soft Skills Revolution to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

Life would be so much easier if everything stayed the same, wouldn’t it? Preparing for that speech or meeting or interview would be a heck of a lot easier if you new exactly what was going to happen, right?

We would adapt to the precise moment when the projector would break. We’d jump right on the last-second agenda change. We could prepare for that last question no one would ever expect.

Awesome concept, right?  Well, not exactly. Quite the opposite, in fact.

First of all, the world isn’t like Groundhog’s Day. Something about the second law of thermodynamics and time’s arrow. Change is our only constant.  Besides, look how unhappy Bill Murray became. Like it or not, we depend on change. Luckily, that’s a skill that you can develop.

Rehearsed Spontaneity

One of the highlights of my career has been to work alongside academy award winning actor, Mark Rylance. He has a shelf of awards for his acting, but he’s also a generous director and mentor.

In a play he wrote and directed, I played a snowmobile riding, Norse, frost giant. In most plays, the director gives actors blocking and expects them to always follow it. Mark didn’t. Instead, he described the relationship between characters onstage. If a character moved one way, we would react and respond instead of moving in a rehearsed and rigid fashion that was constructed for us.

His commitment to chaos was so great that he would also change things he thought were working too well. If he thought something became routine, he would break it up and force us back to reacting to it.

This experience gave me a certain comfort in chaos. Through rehearsing in what appeared like chaos I developed an appetite for unpredictability. Because of this method, I actually joined the audience by encountering aspects of the play for the first time every night, together, with them.

Befriending chaos through practice is the first step to handling unexpected moments with ease.

Cultivating Flexibility

We can “rehearse spontaneity” with the people we seek to connect with. Instead of hoping that things unfold like we plan, we can plan on unpredictability. We can hold on tightly to the points we want to make. But at the same time,  let go of particular thoughts or ideas that hold us back.

Here is an excises to try:

  1. Think of your “Big Idea” and a few supporting words.
  2. Talk through them enough times so that you’re as clear and concise as you can be.
  3. Write down what you said.
  4. Read it aloud.
  5. Now re-draft to get the words perfect.
  6. Print out your final copy. Place the paper in front of you and turn it over.
  7. Talk through your “Big Idea” and supporting thoughts without using any of the words on the paper in front of you.

You have just written your own mini-script. Now that you know your steps you can do the dance.

Results May Vary in Delight

Many of my clients do not like the exercise above. It takes work and commitment. What happens though is almost always a delight to them and me. They engage with the change.

They find new words to share the ideas and the “idea” is now fresher than ever. I hear them thinking, not talking. The words they wrote disappear, replaced by thoughts and authenticity.

Isn’t that what we all want? To be with someone who can conquer change. That’s real. That’s worth listening to?

Hear Everyone but Listen Only to Yourself

Remember the idea and forget the words. There is power and presence in that concept.  When you listen to yourself everyone will hear you.

Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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Soft Skills Revolution: The Real Thing

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

We all want the real thing.

Nowhere is that more important than in communication. Whether you are in front of an audience or in an interview, the people you are trying to connect with want the real you. The quickest way to lose an audience is being inauthentic, fake or disingenuous.

The master communicators are able to bring much, if not all, of their real selves to their audiences. How do they do it? One way is to use feedback to draw and change the lines separating different versions of themselves. This empowers them to bring more of their unique personality to what an audience perceives. They are able to be real.

No, It’s Not About You

A speaker without an audience is like that tree falling in the forest with no one around. Pretty much nothing. Everything depends on the version of you the audience perceives and leaves with.

You can’t just stride up to the podium and say, “Alright, what would you like to talk about?” That’s not going to work too well. You have to bring something to the audience first. The connection between a speaker and audience must begin with the speaker. Audiences pay attention to get a return of interest.

Yes it is: The Real You

When you meet someone one, the most interesting thing you have to offer is yourself. Yes, I am sure you have great ideas, advice and insight. When you are face-to-face with someone those take a back seat to you as a unique human being.

Audiences want you to be real, to be yourself. They enjoy being around someone who doesn’t worry about what everyone thinks. That’s the trick, isn’t it? You care a lot about what the audience thinks. So it’s hard to act like you don’t care.

Well, let me tell you  a little secret: They don’t know you. No one does. Not the “real” you.

An audience only ever sees a sliver of the “real” you. An important sliver. There’s enormous power in this.

No it’s not You: It’s the Audience You

Putting some distance between you and what the audience perceives gives you valuable space. That allows you to use feedback to shift your perspective. That shift is from the “real” you to what you could call the Audience You.

Your reflection in a mirror is an accurate representation of what you look like, right? It’s like there’s this other person looking back at you. Meeting that other person can be hard sometimes, but it’s what most people see–for better or for worse. Meeting this other person in the mirror shifts your perspective to the people looking at you. Feedback on performance introduces you to the Audience You.

And yet, the reflection in the mirror doesn’t define you. Neither does feedback. This is the critical last step to incorporating feedback: the Audience You doesn’t define real you. If everyone says that you bomb your speech, you haven’t bombed life. That kind of feedback tells you there’s a disconnect between the real you and the Audience You. If you’re going to speak again,  work to close that gap.

Ask people what they think of the Audience You. Their feedback will shift your perspective. Encourage them to be specific and honest so you can get a good look at this reflection of you. Don’t forget to thank them and put it to work to make the audience you a more accurate reflection of the real you.

It will make a difference. Really.

Guest writer:
 Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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Patrons with accessibility needs please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit.

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