Last week was an exciting week. I came face-to-face with strangers in debt. I didn’t know what to expect when I had pursued my first speaking event at my local library. An hour and half long presentation sharing our personal journey out of debt and my best tips for others to do the same. It was an open invite with no pre-registration needed so I had no idea if I‘d be sitting in a room by myself or with a few dozen people. The goal was to share what my family has learned and experienced over the years with debt and money to hopefully give someone they spark they needed to get moving in the right direction for themselves.
I arrived forty-five minutes ahead of the start of the event to get my laptop set up and make sure my PowerPoint was ready. I checked in at the front desk to confirm the room I’d be in and the librarian asked if I was the presenter of the “Get Out Of Debt” I agreed and she asked if I had any handouts. She and her co-workers were bummed they could not sit in on the presentation. I told her I’d be back after and had a good feeling the night was off to a good start.
I was set up in a large room with roughly fifty chairs, a podium, and large screen to project my twenty-page presentation on. As I got set up I had my first guest walk in. I was relieved. I had one. I greeted the woman and thanked her for coming. I gave her one of my handouts. It was a two-page hand out. The top sheet had sections for a name, email, amount of debt feedback and comments. Which I explained was voluntary information if anyone was willing to give me. I was going to pick out a name from these sheets at the end of the night to give two copies of Dave Ramsey’s “A Total Money Makeover” away. I explained later to the group that it was at this very library that I had first picked up a copy of that book which helped my family get started on our get out of debt journey.
Before I knew it a few more people had walked in, and again I repeated the process of greeting, thanking them for coming and giving them a copy of my handout. Just before the presentation officially started I looked up to see about thirty people in the room. I joke to the group I wasn’t sure what to expect I thought I might be sitting here alone tonight, and thank them for coming and off I went into the presentation.
I spoke for about eighty minutes, going over the details of my presentation. The first half was dedicated to our story, our rock-bottom moment on 2010 with $109,000 worth of consumer debt hanging over our heads for the first couple of months struggling to get on track with our new behaviors and budget. To the home stretch, our debt-free money, a family vacation paid for in cash, the sobering moment when a job loss rocked us for a bit but never caused panic because we had a plan. The recovery once fully employed and our plan for the future.
The second half laid out steps someone in debt could take to clean up the mess of their own, break the paycheck to paycheck cycle and build a better path for themselves. Figuring out a why, creating and communicating a plan of their own. I laid out an example budget, explained the debt snowball and avalanche techniques. That it will take sacrifice to win with your money and you will need to change behaviors, but in the end, it will be worth it.
The last ten minutes or so were left for questions and answers. There were a few. Questions about having some splurge money in your budget, debt consolidation, credit score impact, etc. Overall there were some really good questions.
When I got home that night and review the handout sheets I collect I found some had included the amount of debt they are in. When I total it all up it is $176,000. I hope I have some positive impact on that number for the people in attendance.
What I Learned
I should have done a better job of planning ahead to get some photos or video of the event to share. I was so focused on the material. I failed to plan to capture any images. I will next time.
There are a few tweaks I need to make to the presentation. Overall I think for using it for the first time it went over pretty well, but there is room for improvement. I need to illustrate the debt snowball method better instead of just explaining it. I could see eyes starting to glance over a bit when I was giving the verbal explanation. A picture is worth a thousand words.
I also learned that this information is needed. There was a wide range of people in attendance young and old seeking information on money and debt. We need to do our best to share our knowledge as best we can. I have already talked to the library about another presentation and about expanding to other libraries in the local area as well.
I really enjoyed taking part in this. It was easy for me. A topic I’m passionate about and certainly have experience with. My brother and wife attendance, both who have never really seen me speak in a setting like this. I have had many opportunities to speak in front of groups, lead meeting, and present in my professional career, so it’s not something that’s new to me. They were impressed with the way I handle myself. I hope it translated that way to the others in the room who didn’t know me.