Posts tagged Human Trafficking
Human Trafficking Expert Talks About What It's Like to Be a Speaker/Trainer
K. D. Roche

K. D. Roche

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If you’ve ever wondered what life as a public speaker is actually like, here’s your chance to learn more about it. In this interview, go behind the scenes with K.D. Roche as they travel across the U.S., speaking and training organizations about human trafficking. It's a good place to start if you'd like to give presentations that teach others about sex trafficking. Have a listen!

I heard K.D. speak a few years ago at a conference.  I was immediately impressed with their ability to connect with the audience, keep us engaged (i.e., laughing) and educate us, all at the same time! When I recently learned that K.D. is now working full time giving presentations, I knew that I wanted to talk to them about it in more depth.

In this interview, K.D. discusses how they got started, what a typical speaking gig looks like, how to speak on difficult topics, sex trafficking, a hilarious “most embarrassing moment” and more.  They also give advice to those who would like to begin doing public speaking themselves.

Go here to watch the interview.  And, if you’d like to start working on a presentation of your own, feel free to schedule a session with me here.

How I Changed Careers and Started Over

Today I’d like to introduce myself by relating the series of events that led me to change careers, going from being a long time ESL teacher and freelance writer to my current work as a speech coach specializing in training human trafficking survivors and their allies.

Ever since I can remember I've been particularly disturbed by the plight of homeless people, refugees and those “hidden” sufferers, like prisoners, who are largely unseen but nevertheless quite numerous.  I’d imagine their misery and wonder why other people weren’t as bothered by it as I was, and wonder why these social problems still existed in the face of “big religion(s).” I wondered why I didn’t do more.  But between these times of wondering, life continued. I married, had children, a home, and all the accompanying responsibilities. In some respects, I became the person that I had vowed I would never be – one so invested and consumed by presumed every day needs that my dreams of working in a refugee camp or serving poor communities never materialized.  

Life continued to go on, my children grew up and one day I found myself single and, much to my surprise, actually quite free to make a new start.  I had another chance to go after those dreams that I had abandoned so long ago. I began investigating a new career. Eventually, I took the plunge and made some big changes.  I quit my day job as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher at a nearby university. I downsized and went paperless. I made a conscious decision to try to live minimally and accumulate less. I moved to the beach, a long time dream, and I even became vegan. During this time, I kept asking myself, what is it that I really want to do?  What would feel meaningful to me?


My focus returned once again to the displaced, marginalized, and poor.  I watched the commercials and imagined life without clean water flowing freely from the tap, and wondered what it would be like to be a woman who needed to devote hours every day to carrying buckets to a well, waiting in line, carrying those heavy buckets back home, and doing it all over again that night.  And the next day. And the next. Clean, easily accessible water. It seemed a good cause, one that affects women and girls disproportionally. I thought about it a lot. 

I also listened to great songs performed by international musicians and produced by the wonderful organization Playing for Change.  They use music as a means to educate and transform children’s lives.  As a teacher, mom, and music fanatic, I was transfixed, excited, and ready to jump on board.  But I kept reading and looking, somehow knowing that I hadn’t yet found exactly what I was looking for.


Then in May of 2016, I sat on a flight from Dallas to Boston, trying to hide the fact that I was weeping.  I had been reading the book Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and when I got to the chapter about sex trafficking, I just couldn’t help myself.  Although this certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve considered becoming involved in the anti-trafficking field, this was the moment when I felt a resolve that I had never experienced before.   This was the moment when I thought to myself. This is it.  This is what I need to do.

So I began educating myself about all the fields related to this kind of work.  I read everything I could get my hands on about human trafficking. I learned about non-profits and researched social marketing.  I took online courses on storytelling and social enterprise. And I began thinking about how I wanted to fit into the bigger picture.   For a long time I felt like Noah, telling my friends for what seemed like forever that I was building a boat (you want to do what?) and it was going to take me, uh...somewhere...somewhere good, lol. I felt like I was swimming through muddy water; I had a vague sense of where I was trying to go but not at all sure if/when I was going to arrive.

I finally realized that what I really wanted to do was speech coaching.  I consider speech my “roots”   - I participated in many speech competitions in high school and got my undergraduate degree in Speech Communication.  I've also taught many speech classes, and they were among my favorites.  It’s a field I’ve always loved. I knew I could do it. I could be good at it, even. I could make a difference by helping others. That’s all I really ever wanted to do.

The problem was, I’d never had the courage to start my own speech coaching business.  I didn’t see myself as an entrepreneur. I found the financial aspect terribly intimidating.  But I realized that the only thing holding me back was my own fear. For a long time I had this quote by Sheryl  Sandberg written on my chalk board:  "What would you do if you weren’t afraid?" I hated the idea that I would have a speech coaching business if I wasn’t afraid.  I hated the idea that my fears about “putting myself out there” were stopping me from doing what I really, really wanted to do. So finally I pulled the plug. I had my website built and started working to promote my business as a speech coach.

Not long after that I went to a trafficking conference and felt both validated and energized.  I listened as many presenters with impressive expertise gave “ok” or “good enough” presentations.  The potential for high impact was there, but most speakers were not able to deliver what I would consider a great talk, presumably because they lacked the proper training. I saw that there was a tremendous need for what I’m good at, and I knew I was on the right track.

Since then I’ve been working hard to let trafficking survivors and their allies know that I’m here to help.  I’ve begun coaching individual speakers and it’s been immensely gratifying. I’m learning new skills to stay current and thus provide more value to my clients.  I’m also learning how to promote my business on social media, and becoming bolder about getting in touch with strangers to talk about my services. Little by little, I’m moving forward.  It’s an exciting time.

Many articles like these end with impressive evidence of “success” , e.g., clients now numbering in the thousands, or interviews with famous people.  I’ll be honest. I’m not there yet. I’m not anywhere close. But that’s ok, because little by little, I’m making a difference doing what I’m good at. That’s reward enough.

3 Necessary Ingredients of a Powerful Story

Increase the impact of your story by including these powerful elements. I wanted to kick off the blog with a post for those of you in the process of creating a new story or presentation.  We’ll be looking at one of the best analyses of storytelling that I’ve seen recently  - this TED Talk by David JP Phillips.  Below, I briefly summarize his main points and then offer my own insights and take-aways.

The Talk


Phillips argues that by including certain elements in their stories, speakers   can induce three powerful hormones, each with their own particular beneficial effects.  (I bet you had no idea we were going to be talking about hormones, huh?  :)  If you're a public speaker, you're really gonna wanna keep reading.) The first hormone you want to induce is dopamine, which improves focus, motivation, and memory.  In the context of a presentation, dopamine will help people listen and remember what you talked about.  To induce dopamine, you need to create suspense.  


Next is oxytocin, which increases generosity, trust and has a bonding effect.  The more your audience trusts and bonds with you, the more likely it is that you can persuade them successfully. To produce oxytocin, you build empathy with your audience.  Simply put, you get them to like you. 


The third hormone you want to induce is endorphins, which increase creativity, relaxation and focus.  Relaxation will make your audience more receptive to your message.  (Remember how much better you did in a class where the teacher helped you relax, and laugh?) To generate endorphins, you make people laugh.     He then explains what happens when you scare your audience - you induce cortisol and adrenalin.  When there are high levels of cortisol, it's not pretty - the results are feeling  intolerant, irritable, uncreative, critical, as well as having trouble remembering and making  bad decisions.

Finally, he encourages the audience to engage in “functional storytelling” by first, recognizing that as humans we are natural storytellers.  Then he suggests that you write your stories, and group them  based on which “good” hormones they induce.  Over time you'll have a collection of stories that you can draw from to use within your presentations.  What's more,  you can strategically choose the best story to create the desired effect at any given time. My “Story Bank” service is designed to help you create this kind of collection.

My Comments

I found it fascinating that much of what I’ve learned about some really basic aspects of storytelling is supported by Phillips’ proposition.  For example, according to Philips, the typical story arc works because it’s creating suspense as it builds to an exciting climax, and releasing dopamine in the process.  And, developing “likeable” characters which your audience can identify with (even if that “character” is you), is effective because it builds empathy, which releases oxytocin.  


On a different note, I decided to try out Phillips’ ideas in a recent talk that I did for a Pecha Kucha Night. Of course, I wanted to induce all of the good hormones, but I only had about 6.5 minutes to do so, so it was a great challenge.  I decided to start out by talking about myself, trying to be transparent in an effort to create empathy.  I talked about how I'm kind of always asking philosophical questions about life, such as "why are we here?" and "what's out there?" I knew that I should throw in some self-deprecating jokes, as this would cover humor and hopefully create even more empathy, so I told a story about how I went salsa dancing and got impaled by another women's high heel.  I included a few more humorous comments at various points later in the talk as well, because my topic - child sex trafficking - was heavy and I didn’t want my audience to become overwhelmed and tune out.  

The suspense aspect was the most challenging, but with this goal in mind, I went back to what I know about basic storytelling.  To build suspense, you need to have a clearly defined, serious problem, and it needs to not be resolved too quickly or easily.  So I reworked my text, very directly stating the problem as close to the beginning of the “story” as I could and then trying to build from there to the resolution.  I wouldn’t call my final version suspenseful.  But I’d like to think that people were curious about what was going to happen next and wondering how I finally resolved my problem.


Obviously, building empathy and suspense while being funny are not new ideas to storytelling.  Nevertheless, I found it helpful to view my presentation from Phillips’ perspective of inducing particular hormones.  You can have a look at my talk here and see for yourself.

If you’d like help to start working on your own story bank, click here. And hit one of the share buttons below if you found this post helpful!