Confidence techniques are needed in every public speaker's toolkit. Today, I've brought mine to Brisbane with me.
I am at the five star Sofitel hotel as a guest speaker of the National Retirement Villages conference. How lucky am I? Lucky! It is so exciting to be here as I catch up with friends I made at last year's conference in Sydney.
I glance around and see Angus Kukura, Peter Nilsson, and then Sandra Carle, the Regional Manager from South Australia and the Northern Territory greets me, and then lots of the women from Adelaide, and now Donna Rayner comes up - it's all go already and this is only the opening cocktail party.
Donna has been promising to send us her story since the last conference so we can have her as a featured woman. But how long can we wait? Certainly a bit longer at least, as hers is a great story to tell. Being a lawyer and having a family sounds enough for any woman to have to cope with.
We all seem to lead such busy lives, don't we? Was it it always like this for our grandmothers and mothers or have we really sped up our entire lives to live in near constant whirlpools of activity, new information and technology break-throughs? Sometimes, I wonder if we are all so busy because we lack the confidence techniques we need to be able to say "No, thank you" to invitations, unrealistic demands and nice-to-haves.
What do you think? Do you have the confidence techniques at your disposal to be able to politely and graciously refuse a request someone is making of you without feeling bad about yourself?
Talking of technology break-throughs, I'm now sitting listening to one of the major sponsors, DCM Green. No, they aren't any relation but we certainly both have environmental interests at heart. I long for Australia to lead the world in solar technology and make the most of all the sun and wind power we have.
DCM Green are one of the largest installers of solar technology in Australia. But more than this, Chris Baynes, their Director, is unveiling a wonderful plan to provide solar energy to entire retirement villages so that each village becomes like a solar farm.
He shows us a photograph of one village where every roof has a panel. Wow! It is an inspiring sight.
Then he tells us the cost savings to the residents and it just sounds better and better.
So when will we all automatically use solar panels to generate our own electricity? I'd better look into getting my own.
Sponsors are such an important part of any conference. If I think I need to rely on some proven confidence techniques to help me speak what about all the talking the sponsors do?
They also need confidence techniques in abundance because they have to confidently lure us to their stalls and then explain their products and services. And they get quizzed by us all and have to keep smiling and flowing with patience and enthusiasm! All while standing for hours on end, day after day.
They must have a secret supply of confidence techniques to use, surely?
I am going to find my sponsors from Cavalier Bremworth, the company who makes those great 100% wool carpets. I meet three gorgeous and confident women there, Sally Hardie, Kym Webster and Michelle Rossi. Hello girls!
They are a hoot and so lovely, and Michelle gives me lots of fashion advice. They also insist I take all their free samples from carpet stain removal to free carpet slippers. I slip them in my bag thinking my staff will love all this.
I thank them for sponsoring my speech and tell them all about it, hoping they'll come along. I am giving tips on how to communicate calmly and clearly with difficult people.
It will be quite different from last year but a chance to build on the skills we covered then. The idea this year is that we give master classes, but there are lots of people so I have been figuring out ways to get everyone involved.
The difference for people in the retirement village industry from other people working in customer service is that their customers live with them and they don't go away. In a shop people might be lucky and only see a difficult customer once, not so here, when someone is unhappy on Monday, they see them again on Tuesday, and on Wednesday.
As I begin my speech we start by learning how to pace each other. This means that if you are talking to people with much quieter voices than yours you'd speak more softly so that your style of voice is more similar to theirs. It isn't always easy to do this but it can be a great way to help bridge people's differences. There is much laughter.
I continue to explain how important it is to have a toolbox of communication options and not just one or two ways of communicating that you use with everyone.
I encourage everyone to take their brain with them to every interaction, but laugh as I tell of the time I didn't take mine and I accidentally told a group of bankers that "My husband deserved the clap". Oh no! I should have said "Applause".
Of course, another essential confidence technique when speaking in public is the ability to laugh at yourself. If you can laugh at yourself then you no longer need to fear the audience laughing at you.
We continue through lots more people management and communication techniques until now we are nearly finished and I am explaining the gender differences in body language between men and women.
Do you realise that people nod their heads without even realising it? What's more men and women often mean something quite different when they do nod their heads. We all start trying not to nod our heads while talking to our partners. The room breaks out in loud laughter. "It's impossible" they shout. I hope we aren't disturbing the master class next door, they are much quieter than my group!
The last strategy is to come up with set lines we can all say when we have a predictable complaint or angry person to respond to. I tell them that one of my lines is "Quality does cost" which I came up with after a lawyer complained about my fees!
We have a competition. I ask then what they would say to a resident who complains "You are charging me what? $2.35 a week for swimming pool maintenance, but I can't even swim!"
I read out the answers and the one that gets the most laughs wins. Some are very reasonable and appropriate and some are hilarious. Answers include positive ones, such as, "What about joining aqua aerobics", "Isn't it nice that your grandchildren can use the pool", and "Would you like to join our swimming lessons on Thursdays?". Then come the funny ones, e.g. "For an extra $5 a week we can teach you", to "We don't have a pool" and "Sink or swim, you still have to pay".
The one that produced the loudest laughs was this one though "Suck it up sunshine!" No of course, no-one would say these things but sometimes people wish they could.
Now it is over I go back outside to talk to more sponsors and I suddenly see Sally again. She says, "I'm so annoyed at myself that I didn't get to your speech". "That's okay", I said, "How come you didn't go?"
"Well" she says, and bursts out laughing, "I didn't know you'd be that good, but now I've heard how much everyone was laughing I could kick myself for not going. I won't miss you next time".
I think this is hilarious. I love her honesty. I suppose the speech did sound potentially boring.
So much to say and so many people still to meet. I go up to the Poolwertz stall because I notice the woman there, Lyn Wicks, is giving away yellow plastic ducks with snorkels on.
She is full of life and energy and while we are talking a man comes up to her and wants to know how to get a duck. Lyn laughs and without a blink says, "Who gives a duck?" and passes him one. I'm rolling around laughing. Great line! Then I discover she knows me and is a newsletter reader and that she pins up the newsletter on the wall at work for others to read - what a small world.
Now I'm talking to Karen from Blue Force who provides electronic security services and she tells me how she was accosted by a resident once. Scary.
Then I meet my namesake Rachel Davis, from Villages Publishing. We talk about those of us who are Rachels without the extra "A" as if we are some sort of superior beings! She shows me their new magazine Life 50+ and I agree to write an article on Business networking for The Source magazine.
I always come away with a long to-do-list after a conference but it is all so good.
Finally tonight it is the conference dinner - people are dressed in Hollywood fancy dress and are wonderful to see. We sit with mother and daughter team Kim and Chelsea. Kim is the General manager of retirement living at Churches of Christ Care in Kenmore, Queensland.
It fascinates me how many retirement based and aged care facilities are provided by the churches, they do such wonderful work.
Wow! It's been a great conference. Huge thanks to all the fabulous sponsors, organisers and attendees who made it possible. May you all find the confidence techniques you need in your lives.