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Inspirational Woman: Shola Kaye | Public speaker, author & Motown singer

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Shola Kaye is author of the bestselling book, How to be a DIVA at Public Speaking.

She’s also an award-winning professional speaker and an international performer. With corporate experience gained at blue chip companies in New York and London, and qualifications in teaching and coaching, Shola will show you the unique DIVA Speaking System that will help you become an authentic, powerful public speaker. As someone who was once afraid to speak in public, she is sympathetic and encouraging towards nervous speakers.

Shola has won numerous speaking contests, spoken to audiences as large as 1500 people and has performed in front of tens of thousands internationally. For the more ambitious speakers that attend, Shola can share a raft of knowledge that will help propel you to the next level.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m a public speaking coach and author of the book ‘How to be a D.I.V.A. at Public Speaking’. I’m also a professional singer (Motown and Jazz) and a speaker. I run a company called Speak Up Like A DIVA with training programmes and workshops for women who want to increase their confidence speaking to groups, being more visible in the workplace and thinking on their feet. We do bespoke corporate workshops and executive training too (for both men and women).

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My earliest dream was of becoming a singer but my family always emphasised academics and being a performer definitely wasn’t encouraged! As a result I didn’t have many career goals and relied far too heavily on the advice of others. The route I followed seemed to take me all around the houses. I’ve been a teacher (my Dad’s suggestion), a management consultant in the USA (my best friend suggested I try it – I hated it!!), have started a couple of businesses related to music, for example creating corporate video jingles, and have had various other interests including being a life coach and NLP practitioner. While I love variety I got very stressed at certain points thinking I’d wasted many good working years and should have focused on one area, going narrow and deep.

Things started to come together for me when, in my early thirties I took singing lessons, got into a band, recorded an album and eventually became a professional singer. I was much more fulfilled although singing isn’t the most stable career in the world!

However, right now it feels like all the experiences and false starts have helped contribute to where I am now. Some of my screw ups have made for great anecdotes to include in my speeches and book. I use my singing and performance background to help my clients become more confident presenters and my time spent in consulting and other corporate jobs has been really valuable when working with women who want to up their visibility in the workplace. In the last few months I’ve spoken at events for Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar and it felt like the women there appreciated hearing about my ‘chequered’ career path!

What inspired you to start your own business?

I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial and enjoy being my own boss. Having one’s own business is also a brilliant opportunity to be creative.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

Part of the joy – and the pain – of having one’s own business is that everything is an experiment. I’m continually wrapping my head around the fact that as business owners we need to switch hats between being the expert and the mad ‘business scientist’ – trying things out with no guarantee whether they’ll work or not!

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I’ve never really had a formal mentor although I’d definitely like to find one sometime in 2018. There are ‘teachers’ and ‘mentors’ I follow through their books, online courses, events and more. I mentor a friend and help her with her public speaking and act as a sounding board for her business ideas. It’s definitely an enjoyable experience.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I’d want to create more training opportunities for women around assertiveness, speaking up, and being confident of their ideas and input. Very early on in my career I worked as an account director for a design agency. I was tasked with running a team, pitching to C-suite and more. I hated speaking up during meetings, was dreadful at it and never received any presentation skills training. After a few months in the role I was ‘let go’. Years later I took control of my own training and won an award for public speaking. I know there are women out there working in environments where they need some help; they’re not being trained properly and it’s very much sink or swim. I’d like to see even small employers encouraged to support ongoing training for their female staff to help them maximise their potential and contribute more powerfully and visibly in the workplace.

Do you have any tips or advice for other budding female entrepreneurs thinking about setting up on their own?

I’d definitely say go for it! Do it in a staged way if you can and make sure you have a support network around you, whether of friends, other business owners, a virtual team or whatever. It can be tough and you can feel isolated at times so assess your values, strengths, and weaknesses. Know why you want to run your own business and keep that in mind as you get going. You may need to delay your gratification for many years. As soon as you can, hand off tasks you don’t enjoy or are poor at to other members of your team, so you can focus on the bits you do well.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Writing my book was a big achievement for me. I can’t say I enjoyed to process – at times I thought it would never end – even though it only took about 5 months from starting to write until it was released. I love helping people and being of service, so the fact that a woman I’ve never met, living in Dubai or in the USA, can read it and take value from it has been amazing. The feedback it has received has been hugely positive. As an introvert I don’t particularly enjoy talking about myself but my coach encouraged me to include lots of personal anecdotes and it’s been gratifying to hear from readers that they enjoyed these as much as the straight-up public speaking advice.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

During the first half of 2018 I’m planning to write a second book that will help people think on their feet, speak engagingly at short notice and deal with difficult questions.

I also want to get my group coaching program up and running – that will be for introvert women entrepreneurs and those in corporate who need the skills and support to speak up, get noticed and build their businesses/careers with speaking. I was at a business networking event recently and amazingly around 90% of the women self-identified as introverts. I want to make public speaking and presentations easy and enjoyable for these women.

My longer term goal is to speak internationally and combine humour, singing and inspirational messages on stage. If you can make people laugh you can create a bond really fast; music can bypass logic/reason to touch people’s emotions while the inspirational advice will hopefully empower people to move forward in whatever way they need.

Watch this space!

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