Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator

Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker &
Executive Presentation Coach
Let's Talk. 860-371-8801 or Email me
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator

Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker &
Executive Presentation Coach
Let's Talk. 860-371-8801 or Email me
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach
Let's Talk. 860-371-8801 or Email me

It’s Time to Brave Up

Earlier this month the world celebrated International Women’s Day (March 8th). It is a day where we commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements and contributions of women. It is also a focal point in the women’s rights movement, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence against women.

Rather than doing what I usually do on this day – post banners and images on social media – waving my virtual hand in support of the cause, I decided to get more involved. I wanted to not just acknowledge international women’s day, I wanted to actually create it.

So I got brave and volunteered with three other professional women and one amazing 16 year old emerging leader to create an empowering learning experience for 45 high school girls in Caracas, Venezuela. The conference was called BRAVE UP – Women Leading In…

The Brave Up Conference for Young Women Leaders

The Brave Up conference included four one-hour daily Zoom sessions with guest speakers focused on topics such as political activism, communication, business, and service. The final fifth day was a day of celebration and action. I was honored to serve side-by-side in the planning and delivery of this special conference with Maria Perdomo, European Senior Finance Manager for Stanley Black & Decker, Patricia Lucia Betancourt, Executive Director  of VenEuropa based in Brussels, and Jolly Lux, Founder and Executive Director of Guiding Light Orphans, Inc., and business owner of JAL Visionary Solutions. 

The real brains behind the operation was 16-year old Oriana Bracaglia who is the niece of Maria Perdomo. Oriana is a student at  Colegio Los Campitos. She is a volunteer leader of her school’s Model United Nations program. She serves as Secretary General for LCIMUN, and also as Treasurer for Girl Up Venezuela. In Oriana, I see an emerging leader with great potential to change the world for the good.

The Magic of Networking

Many of you have heard me say, “There’s magic in networking.” By that I don’t mean hocus pocus or sleight of hand. I mean that opportunities and positive impact that you can’t even imagine are possible and happen when you build relationships over time and facilitate introductions. It’s all about putting people and ideas together.

So when my client and friend Maria Perdomo reached out to me on LinkedIn and asked if I would be open to networking with her niece Oriana, I immediately said YES.

Oriana then sent me a letter of introduction via email, a link to her LinkedIn profile, and a mini presentation of her Model United Nations program at her school (LCIMUN). Within a few days, the three of us jumped on a Zoom call – with me in South Carolina, Maria in Belgium, and Oriana in Venezuela.

Oriana told me that she had watched a few of my YouTube videos. She asked if I would be willing to give a seminar to her class as part of a special project for the Model United Nations. Maria and I challenged Oriana to think bigger. We brainstormed ideas on how we could work together to have a larger, more transformative impact on her and her classmates.

Many people would have engaged in the ideation, but shied away from implementation because of the extra work and complexity. Not Oriana. She braved up and took on the challenge. Within a week, she had built a team, developed a conference theme and logo, set a date, confirmed expert speakers, and brushed up on Zoom meeting skills and technology. Her skill and learning speed were equally matched by her graciousness and gratitude.

VIDEO: If you have an Instagram account, you can watch the amazing capstone video that the girls put together for the final day of the conference. In their own words this video reflects the value and impact that was created in the Brave Up Conference. Gives me goosebumps!


Brave Up Strategies for Communication

As I prepared for my session, Women Leading in Communications, I reflected on what I wished someone had told me when I was 16. What messages of inspiration and wisdom could I have used then to propel me more confidently towards my career and life goals. I realized that I needed to speak from my heart and share five communication strategies that they could begin to implement immediately in their classwork, in their communities, in their summer jobs, and their college applications.

Here’s a list of the 5 Brave Up Strategies for Communication:

  1. Speak from the Heart
  2. Own Your Voice
  3. Listen
  4. Be Congruent
  5. Be Candid

I created the image below of the 5 Brave Up strategies on Canva.com. I wanted something that would engage and inspire the young women during the Zoom session (rather than just a boring Powerpoint slide). It worked…like magic. Oriana even translated the poster into Spanish to reach more people post conference.

I wanted to bring to life each of these 5 strategies to life with examples of young women who have demonstrated each skill to make an impact on the world through their empowered communication. Here’s how I did that for two of the five Brave Up strategies.

Brave Up Strategy #1:  SPEAK FROM THE HEART

When we communicate we create the opportunity to connect. When we communicate we don’t just talk, or teach, or tell, we are connecting with other people. We can build rapport and relationships. We can create trust and feelings. Communication is not just about informing or reporting out; it’s about human connection.

And when you speak from the heart, you have the opportunity to deepen those connections and to build trust. And that can happen when you are communicating with one person or two people, or a meeting room full of people, from a stage, or with 45 people on a Zoom call. That’s the power of communication when you speak from the heart.

This first Brave Up strategy for communication is powerfully demonstrated by Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history who shared her amazing poem, The Hill We Climb, at the January 20th Presidential Inauguration. If you haven’t seen her 6 minute performance, you should (click below).  Amanda is also releasing her first book. I have preordered it.

Brave Up Strategy #5:  BE CANDID.

The fifth and final Brave Up strategy I shared with the LCIMUN girls was Be Candid. Say what needs to be said. I explained that there is great societal pressure and expectation for women and girls to be nice, polite, quiet and cooperative. If girls/women break that societal norm, they are often criticized, penalized, demonized. It happens every day to women and girls on playgrounds, in classrooms, in workplaces, in board rooms. We must be brave and learn to be candid.

Perhaps the best example of that is the young climate activist, Greta Thunburg, who stood up to world leaders and told it like it is – we are destroying our planet with our empty words and reckless actions about the climate emergency. “We are speeding in the wrong direction,” she tells us in her recent video.

I showed the LCIMUN girls this excerpt of Greta’s 2018 TEDx Stockholm talk to the LCIMUN as an example of what being candid looks like and sounds like. I focused on the closing comments of Greta’s 11 minute presentation. (this video clip is prompted to start at minute 9:35 of her speech)

Rather than “happy talk,” Greta spoke candidly and frankly to her audience. Listen to this brave girl. I dare you not to pay attention to her.

TRANSCRIPT (from minute 9:35-10:22) “Now we’re almost at the end of my talk, and this is where people usually start talking about hope, solar panels, wind power, circular economy, and so on, but I’m not going to do that. We’ve had 30 years of pep-talking and selling positive ideas. And I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work. Because if it would have, the emissions would have gone down by now. They haven’t. And yes, we do need hope, of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”

How Can You Brave Up?

“There is always light if only we are brave enough to see it; if only we are brave enough to be it.”

~ Amanda Gorman, final words from her poem, The Hill We Climb

The need for bravery is not just for young women, it’s for everyone. If you have a goal or a dream, you will need a constant flow of courage to pursue it and achieve it. No matter what your age, status or success, you are not immune from fear. You have voices of doubt that periodically get into your head and hijack your mindset. You experience feelings of fear, anxiety and concern and that can slow down or stop your momentum, potentially preventing you from achieving your full potential.

What does it mean to be brave?

Being brave means taking the next step even when you are afraid or unsure.

Being brave means that you raise your hand and put yourself out there even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Being brave means trying new, bold things even if it means risking failure and rejection.

Being braves means committing to a lifetime of learning and personal growth even when you are busy.

Being brave means accepting responsibility for your own shortcomings even if it’s easier to make excuses and blame others.

Being brave means believing in the power of your dreams even when others poo-poo them.

Being brave means investing in yourself and your future even when money is tight.

Being brave means investing in young people and empowering them to pursue their dreams even if you won’t directly benefit you.

Being brave means taking action to create positive changes in the world. After all, that’s what we are here for!

p.s. if you are looking for ways to shore up your bravery, please check out The Fearless Leader program. In just 8-weeks, you will find the courage to create a path and a plan to get your business, career, and life back on the right track. 

One Response to “It’s Time to Brave Up”

  1. Maria Perdomo Arreaza

    Dear Kathy,
    This was an unique opportunity and we embraced with joy and professionalism.
    The feedback received from the girls at the celebration session, demonstrated us that the empowerment is now at their hands and they feel much stronger than before. They got all these Brave Up strategies that will encourage them to make the right choices in life. These leaders are now in their way to success.
    Thank YOU for leading the way!

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