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WHY Do You Get Out of Bed Every Morning? An interview with Karen Cortell Reisman

by | Apr 3, 2012

by Arin Forstenzer, Speak For Yourself ® Marketing Coordinator

WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY…by WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

-Simon Sinek

Here’s how Karen has answered my questions:

What made me start this business vs. becoming a florist, for example?

I felt there was a need for people to communicate more effectively, in order to grow their businesses, and their lives.

How did you come to that belief—that there was a need?

After 10 years of teaching at the college level, in the area of communication, computers, humanities (English), I saw a need for this type of business and I also felt I had now earned the experience.

Where did you see this gap in education? Other professors? Colleagues? Student presentations?

At these 2 colleges I taught a lot of adults (returning to college; already out in the business world). These adults wanted application to the real world, rather than theory or academic musings.

Before I taught for 10 years, I worked in the research department in the Dallas public school system, where I began to hone my presentation skills.

We did complex research studies and my boss sent me to conferences all over the country to present this material. I soon learned that this research, and research presentations in general are INSANELY long and boring. Horrible. And I knew there had to be a better way to present information.


How did you make them more intriguing? How did you change these horribly “boring” research presentations?

  1. Your delivery and style. Don’t be monotone.
  2. Add stories. A compelling presentation is never just about the data.
  3. Change from passive tense to active.

I mean I didn’t know all that then. I had this job from age 21-27.

How did you figure out HOW to change it?

I remember some guy gave a speech. He was horrible. At the end, he said, “Oh, I have 5 more minutes, wanna here some jokes?”

Nothing to do with the speech! But the audience actually moved. So I thought, there has to be a way to COMBINE the JOY with the drudgery of information. (Karen-“I haven’t thought about that experience in years…”)

Did you listen to other speeches/presentations to back that belief up?

That particular speech occurred when I was at the Dallas School District. When I started giving presentations, the ART of speaking intrigued me. How do you get your message across and make it stick? How do you impart your information in a way that people can remember and retain it?  And enjoy the process of learning.

How did you get from the research department to teaching to public speaking?

I’ve always wanted to perform. I like the whole field of acting and drama. I was the chairman of the WEE WILLY WONKA club when I was 4. I charged the neighbors 5 cents to come and see our plays. I always wanted to be in front of the camera and not behind it.

So I thought, well the practical side of me at least, was not to go into theater, but to make this into a profitable (skill) business.

One of the best things I ever did was to teach for those 10 years. Standing up in front of a crowd every day of the week, it’s trial by fire.

My first class I thought I had enough material for 90 minutes. I was finished in 5. I was miserable. They knew I was miserable. They informed me that it’s totally normal for the 1st class to be short.

By the time I left Richland College, my classes filled to capacity every single time and I had 90 minutes of material every time. Even on the first day.

I knew who my students were, they knew me.

But, this transformation did not happen overnight, as they say. My 3rd class I accidently read Betty Recter’s evaluations, which had mistakenly been left for me. I was ecstatic. Until I realized they were not mine. Betty won teacher of the year. I finally had to go get my actual evaluations…which were NOT good!

Did any comments or ideas stand out from those student evaluations?

Students don’t mince words. Their evaluations were clear that I needed to improve.

I was teaching subject matter – this was my computer class (long story how I got to teach that subject) that I was not comfortable with. They sensed my discomfort because I wasn’t as confident with the content. My public speaking class was much better.

Actually, I took some classes in the subject matter (in computer science). I audited some of the classes offered on campus.

To get better here’s what I did:

CONTENT- I increased my knowledge of the content

DELIVERY- experience! YOU just CAN’T QUIT. I had to show up every day to teach class. I had to show up every Tues/Thurs for 16 weeks. 32 sessions. But also deep down, I knew I had the skills. I knew I could do it.

Did you notice a difference between your first day teaching the public speaking class versus your first day of teaching the computer science class?

Just because you know how to DO it, doesn’t mean you know how to TEACH it. So learning to teach the subject also took time.

How did you realize that critical difference?

I’d say, with those classes I grew in learning how to interact. Computer class is more CONTENT driven. Public speaking is more back and forth. They’re giving speeches while I’m evaluating them. I really developed and strengthened my ability to give criticism that’s encouraging, yet critical.

That teaching experience solidified a key skill I use in my business today.  I can give people the tough critical directives (feedback) on how to improve, in a POSITIVE, rapport-building non-threatening way.

I have evaluated over 10,000 speeches in my career. And it began when I taught those public speaking classes.

You have this class or a client here, and they’re freaking out. They might not even be a good speaker. I can nail it fast on what they’re doing, and how to do it better. And I can even give constructive criticism without ruining their self-confidence. Actually, doing it in such a way that they can increase their sense of self.

If people aren’t in sales, or giving presentations for business, WHY should they care?

Everybody’s in sales. (repeats 3 times). Has a 14 year old ever tried to convince a parent they could stay out later? Has a parent ever tried to negotiate with their child on keeping a budget?

Karen’s WHY

 “Everyone’s a negotiator” Whether you’re having a health crisis, running a business, raising a family, maintaining a marriage, a relationship, anything… It’s all in how you communicate.”



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