By Spence M. Finlayson
Public speaking for me is one of the gifts from my Creator. In addition to speaking successfully as an international conference speaker, I have also been blessed with the gifts of writing and hosting my own television and radio shows.
I have been honoured to give 5,000 speeches and presentations in my 30 years as a much sought after motivational speaker. So today, I thought I would share with you some of my most memorable speeches and presentations.
1. In 1990 I was contracted by the Life Underwriters Association of The Bahamas (LUAB) to be one of the speakers at their annual conference being held in Ft Lauderdale, Florida, at the Embassy Suites Hotel. I was extremely excited for this opportunity of being the first Bahamian to address their international conference and, additionally, I had only been speaking professionally for about two years. Well, I was very well received by the conference attendees and the then president of LUAB, Mr Keith Major, said after my presentation, “You are not only a motivator, Spence, but you are a Master Motivator.” Well the die was cast because the name stuck with me to this day. I can vividly recall going down to the meeting room from my suite, feeling some butterflies and lots of excitement building as I prepared for my hour-long speech. It was simply awesome.
2. The late Sammy Gardiner, an executive with the Bahamas ministry of tourism, hired me to give the keynote speech at the ministry’s Tourism and Hospitality Conference that was held at the Princess Hotel and Casino in Freeport, Grand Bahama. I was thrilled by the reception that I received from the conference attendees, and my energy level was off da chain so to speak. The room was filled to capacity with about 500 persons and I was not aware that I had already spoken for more than my allotted one hour time. I was in the proverbial zone, the church people call it the “anointing”. One gentleman in particular came up to me afterwards and said, “Man, you were sensational, totally awesome.” His name was Fireball Freddie, a legendary Bahamian entertainer. That meant a whole lot coming from him.
3. The year was 1992, when the chairman of the then governing Progressive Liberal Party, Mr Andrew “Dud” Maynard, approached me about speaking at the party’s convention at the Cable Beach Hotel in Nassau. We negotiated my speaking fee and I was set to go. He gave me ten minutes to speak saying he only wanted me to motivate the convention delegates. Well, I was on fire that night with an audience of 1,000 persons in the hall and in front of a live television audience of approximately 150,000 people. Sir Lynden Pindling, the then prime minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, started standing and clapping as I spoke, then the Hon A D Hanna, stood up as I spoke, and finally Sir Clement T. Maynard, the deputy prime minister, stood up giving me a round of applause. I was in heaven. Whenever I had an opportunity to speak with Sir Lynden Pindling after that speaking engagement, he always said to me, “Man, that was some speech.” That meant a lot to me because Sir Lynden was prime minister for 25 consecutive years and I admired him greatly.
4. The Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions president Ralph Wharton of Barbados hired me to give the keynote at their annual conference in the Cayman Islands in 1996 on the recommendation of Corinne Glasgow, then postmaster general of the Cayman Islands Post office. Now this engagement was truly an honour for me as my fellow Bahamians would be hearing me for the first time on international grounds. There were 50 Bahamians among the 500 delegates from 16 English-speaking Caribbean countries. I can vividly recall seeing my first cousin Marjorie Stuart, smiling proudly as her Uncle Ali’s young son was doing his thing on the international stage and being very well received. The first group of persons to cheer me on was the some Jamaicans sitting up front, then the Caymanians, Trinidadians and my fellow Bahamians. I spoke for two hours non-stop from 9 am to 11 am at the Radisson in Grand Cayman. Just recently I asked a Bahamian who was at the conference why the Bahamian delegation did not applaud first for me and she said that they were simply in awe of my presentation and felt very proud deep down inside. I made the front page of the Caymanian Compass newspaper the next morning. It was a memorable occasion. I also learned at that time about merchandising my materials: books, tapes, etc. The organizers kept me over for a few additional days so the delegates could purchase my materials. I thank them to this day for the opportunity.
5. One morning I received a telephone call from the Hon. Reece Chipman, then the president of The Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA), inviting me to be a speaker at the Caribbean Accountants Conference that was being held in Nassau . I quickly agreed and was scheduled to speak at 10 am at the conference. I was my usual energetic, dynamic self and, as soon as I was finished my presentation, a couple of gentleman rushed up to me to give me their business cards and said that I had to be a speaker at their conference the following year in Trinidad. One of the men was Mr Anthony Pierre, the president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad and Tobago (ICATT), and so we held discussions via email about my coming to Port of Spain to speak at their 40th anniversary conference. Well, I gave the keynote speech at the conference held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and was very well received. Mr Pierre decided to keep me over for another day to attend the banquet and say a few words. It was truly an honour.
6. Finally, I received an email with subject line saying “Speaking engagement in Barbados”, and I immediately got excited. It was the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association inviting me to be the keynote speaker at their annual conference in Barbados at the Erskine Sandiford Centre. I flew into Barbados and was met at Grantley Adams International Airport by a chauffeur driving a Bentley. He took me around while I was in Barbados. My speech was very well received and afterwards the executives of the association took me to dinner. They said, “You were very good… and to think that you were not our first choice. We were trying to get Les Brown but his fee was too high and during the meeting a gentleman said ‘don’t worry about Les Brown, there is a Bahamian motivational speaker named Spence Finlayson, get him’.” Wow, this information made me realize that I was playing now in the big leagues.