I still strive to understand audience
My new audiences have different interests from what I encountered with business professionals. For example, senior
citizens don’t care if you’re “glad to be
there” because if they woke up, they’re
glad to be there, too. Sierra Club members don’t care if you had to park far
away because they consider three miles
a reasonable walk to a trailhead. And
children don’t care about the success
markers that impress adults because
“numbers” don’t matter in their world
of being happy.
Of course, the important aspects of
speaking stay the same. My audiences,
like yours, want a speaker who is
authentic, genuine and human. They
want someone who cares about them,
someone they can trust, and someone
they can admire. Most important, they
want easy, realistic ideas that they can
use now, today, to make a difference
in their lives. In other words, what you
are doing now applies to what you’ll
do in your next chapter, too.
I now have more awesome experiences.
I was on a path taking photos of a newly
fledged (just out of the nest) Anna’s
Hummingbird. Five girls and a woman
stopped to ask what I was doing. Many
people ask that question when they see
me taking photos because I use a professional camera and specialty lens system
similar to what you see on the sidelines
of major sporting events. It’s not your
average point-and-click camera.
I told them I was taking photos of a
bird. They asked “Where?” I pointed,
and said, “Over there.” And they asked,
“Where?” It can be difficult to see a
tiny gray bird that’s on a thin branch in
a tree 25 feet away. So, I shortened the
legs on my tripod so the girls could
look through the camera’s eyepiece.
Now they were able to see this bird
breathing, blinking and being alive
close up, as if it were a foot away.
The girls lined up and took turns
watching this tiny bird. They did this
their turn for a
second and third
look. Then, they
thanked me and
their walk. I’ll ask
you to pause a
moment to con-
sider that I spent
20 minutes letting five children look
through a camera system that costs as
much as a car. This exemplifies the joy
of giving back. We show gratitude for
wealth by sharing it.
Later, the woman caught up with me.
She said, “Those girls have told everybody about that hummingbird. They told
their friends; they told their teacher. I’m
sure they’ll tell their parents. You really
made a big impression on them.” I
thought this was odd because I had said
very little. Then, I realized that children
learn from our actions.
I now receive new kinds of gifts.
Perhaps you have a collection of
plaques, paperweights, coffee cups and
pens from past engagements. While I’m
grateful for these gifts, I have one that’s
especially memorable. In fact, it’s the
only gift on display in my office. It’s a
paper airplane. A girl made it as her
take-home prize during a weeklong
nature program. After my talk, she gave
it to me, saying simply, “This is for
you.” When you “give back,” others
give back, too. And like you, they give
from the heart.
I now receive feedback that inspires me.
Here’s one of my favorite comments:
“It’s not easy to hold my attention for
three hours. Just ask my mom, she’ll
tell you. But you did it.” This praise
came from a 12-year-old after a class
on nature photography (for adults!).
Each of us has a mission, a value or
cause that drives us from within and
goes beyond our speaking. This is
mine: We live in a troubled world fac-
ing critically impor-
tant decisions that
will determine our
future quality of life.
Certainly, the strat-
egy of defining suc-
cess by consumption
and material accu-
mulation has reached
its limit. We need a
new strategy based
on being locally and globally responsible
citizens of this earth who work together,
not for a privileged few but for the good
of all. This is my work today.
And now I have some compelling
questions for you:
• What ways might you contribute as
a citizen of this earth?
• What interests, skills or hobbies
could become part of your final,
most significant chapter in life?
• How can you begin preparing to use
these interests or skills, regardless of
where you are in your career?
This matters because giving back is
more than doing something nice to fill
your final chapter. It’s a life strategy
that begins with your younger self,
matures over time, and ultimately
defines who you really are.
Here’s one last benefit of being a
speaker. You are in a uniquely rare position to influence others. When you
blend giving back with compassion and
gratitude, you increase your well-being.
This makes you a better person, which
in turn makes you a better speaker. In
giving back, you gain more of everything that truly matters in your life.
I inspire people to join in my efforts
to heal the Earth. What is your pathway
to giving back? For you, what’s next?
Steve Kaye, PhD, was the
1996-97 president of the
NSA Greater Los Angeles
Chapter, the 1995 winner of
their Connie Award, and
their 2002 Member of the Year. He has taken
over a half million photos as a professional
photographer and speaks about how birds