Why do smart people do dumb things with money? Financial journalist and television host Bruce Sellery is on a mission to help people get a handle on their money so they can live the life they want. In his talks, Bruce is an essential guide for those who―when it comes to managing their money―could use a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. We’re delighted to put Bruce in our spotlight today:
What inspired you to want to be a speaker?
I was the kid who loved, loved, loved the annual public speaking competition in elementary school. The rush I felt walking to the front of my classroom in grade four was unmatched, and I still feel it today. I had no idea that speaking was something you could actually get paid for, and it wasn’t until I was working on television that I even thought about it. While I love TV, nothing beats leaving the studio and having a conversation with a group of a few hundred people. It is interactive, unedited, and you never know what is going to happen.
Any advice for aspiring speakers?
Practice, practice, practice. Take every opportunity to be speaking at the front of the room. Book pro bono events at Rotary Clubs, your local library, or anywhere that you can try out your ideas. I think that practicing in front of real people is the best way to increase your confidence, find your voice, and prepare you to handle different types of audiences.
What do you like to leave audiences with?
My job is to inspire people to get a handle on their money. I want to leave the audience with two or three specific ideas on things they can do to improve their financial situation, and the motivation to go home and actually take action. To accomplish that goal, I need to entertain them, and so I do.
How do you prepare before a talk? Any special rituals? A good luck talisman?
I arrive early and meet members of the audience before I go on stage. I want to know why they came to the event, what is important to them, and what they want me to cover. It is critical for me to remember that these are real people with real questions. I find that talking to a few of them beforehand really helps me speak to a room full of individuals, instead of to a generic crowd. Oh–and I listen to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” on repeat my iPod, while drinking Red Bull, and knitting.
Do you have an especially memorable event you can tell us about?
I did a ten city tour with the Vancouver Olympics Organizing Committee. At our very first event in Halifax, a group of young, feisty, and passionate protesters took over the podium and said they wouldn’t leave until they had a chance to speak. We gave them the mic for two minutes, they made their point and departed. It certainly provided a jolt of excitement for that event, and for the entire tour.
Any funny or embarrassing situations you found yourself in as a speaker?
I don’t normally speak at cocktail events, but I did one a few years ago. One attendee had consumed most of a keg by the time I started, and he thought it would be really fun to provide some commentary on my speech. I rolled with the heckling the first few times, then I put the group into paired discussions and went and dealt with the drunk. I got kudos from the audience and organizers for handling the situation with humour and grace.
Is there a charitable cause that you feel passionate about? Why?
My own “Modern Family” was created through an open adoption and I feel really passionate about the diverse ways in which families can be created.
Best subject in school?
I won the award for top mark in grade ten “Industrial Arts” class. This is kind of funny, because my success on the written exam was a total contradiction of my failure with the band saw. Even now, decades later, I have no ability to make or fix anything, except perhaps dinner. That I can do. Come on over.
Last book you read?
Turn Right at Machu Picchu. This was very enjoyable research for our tenth wedding anniversary trek in Peru.
Last film you saw?
As a parent, I found it moving and inspiring, but also a frightening reminder of the passage of time. My daughter, Abby, is almost five years old now. Which basically means she’s almost fourteen. Which means she’s almost off to university, almost married, living in Japan with kids of her own and visiting once a year. Wait. Wait. She’s five, right?