Archive for Public Speaking Posts

The Question That Took Me to Chicago


MA having her first slice of Chicago deep dish pizza, WINx Chicago, Apr 2017

“What if there was no secret but there was a question? Not just any question…Life’s Most Powerful Question: What’s Important Now?”

– Brian R. Willis, Winning Mind Training Inc.

What’s Important Now?

The question, “What’s Important Now?,” can serve as a guide to help us prioritize the choices and decisions we are faced with every day. It is a question that can help us overcome life’s challenges, obstacles and road blocks.

Brian Willis first heard about the question (represented by the acronym W.I.N.) while reading the book Winning Every Day by the famous college football coach Lou Holtz. Coach Holtz used to remind his players at Notre Dame to ask themselves this important question throughout the day.

“There is a powerful lesson to be learned from ‘Coach’ for all of us,” explains Willis. “Every day during our personal and professional lives we are faced with a number of critical choices and decisions. Our responses to those choices, the decisions we make, have a lasting impact on our health, our relationships, our careers and our finances.”

In order for us to achieve excellence in our lives, Brian suggests we ask ourselves this simple, but powerful question throughout every day – What’s Important Now?


Because the simple act of stopping to ask this question causes us to briefly pause while our mind imagines the impact of the choices we have and almost immediately brings to mind the most desirable choice.

“When I say most desirable I do not mean the choice that will give us the most immediate gratification,” Willis explains. “I mean the choice that will have the most positive impact for us in our lives, based on the foreseeable future. This one powerful question allows us to prioritize decisions, choices, actions, and events in our personal and professional lives.”

The reason “What’s Important Now?” is such a powerful question is that it is about both the present and the future.

Brian Willis is a mentor of mine – and a good friend. Interestingly, our paths crossed before we did. Brian was a Calgary police officer who trained my husband, John, when he was in recruit class. After John’s death, Brian and his lovely wife, Lynda, became strong supporters of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund…and of me, personally.

Brian first introduced me to the “What’s Important Now?” question more than a decade ago. And the older I get, the more often I find myself utilizing it as a powerful tool throughout my day.

Brian recommends we ask ourselves this question 35 to 40 times throughout our day – and I suspect I am probably getting pretty close to doing just that.

Why? Because it works like a charm to help keep me on track with what is REALLY important in any given moment or situation.

For more information about What’s Important Now, please visit the W.I.N. website. And I highly recommend signing up to receive Brian’s weekly blog via e-mail.

Which brings me to Chicago…

When Brian and his colleague, Roy Bethge of the Virtus Group, asked me to be one of nine speakers at WINx Chicago 2017 in late April – a TEDx Talks style event for growth and advancement of the law enforcement profession – I immediately said yes.

Our presentations could only be 18 minutes in length…which was a real challenge! But I did it. We ALL did 🙂

And the experience of being part of WINx 2017 was amazing. It was an opportunity of a lifetime…and I am so glad I had the courage to embrace it.

All of the talks were filmed and will be shown on You Tube. Here is the link to the 2016 WINx talks.

And since I was in the Windy City anyway…

For those of you know me personally, this won’t surprise you in the least – but since I was in Chicago for work anyway, I figured I might as well extend my visit a few days to see the sights. Lynda Willis joined me and we had a blast, roaring around the streets of Chicago!

Here are a few pics from the fun portion of the program:

Unbelievably decadent Chicago-mix Garrett popcorn…cheddar cheese & caramel!


Looking up at the Willis Tower, Chicago


“The Bean” in Millennium Park


One of “The Faces” in Millennium Park


MA & Lynda on the ferris wheel at Navy Pier, Chicago


One view from the Willis Tower, Chicago…skyscrapers galore!


MA & Lynda standing not so steady on the glass shelf, 103 floors up, Willis Tower, Chicago

Back on solid ground, here we are outside the theatre where we saw the Hamilton musical. OMG…it was incredible!!

Meanwhile back at the ranch…or the country kennel, as the case may be, Sadie was NOT impressed with her overly cozy canine companion!

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.


Commemorating 15 Years of Workplace Safety Success


MA speaking at JPMF 15th anniversary event

Maryanne speaking at the JPMF’s 15th anniversary event, Calgary, AB, May 2015

The following presentation was delivered by Maryanne Pope, Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF), in Calgary, AB at the JPMF’s 15th Anniversary event on May 23, 2015


Thank you so much for coming this evening and for all your support over the years – I really appreciate it…all of us at the JPMF do.

And a special thank you to Calgary Police Chief Paul Cook, Calgary Fire Chief Steve Dongworth and EMS Chief Darren Sandbeck – for taking the time to attend this event and saying a few words. Your presence here tonight speaks volumes.

As you all know, in September, it will be 15 years since John passed away. But I remember, like it was yesterday, a specific incident at John’s funeral reception – that I’d like to share that with you now.

After John’s funeral, we were all in this huge banquet room at the Hyatt downtown and someone was up at the podium, saying a few words about John. I was in the crowd, listening…and I specifically remember standing beside the buffet table – ‘cause if there’s a buffet in the room, I’m not gonna be far from it 🙂

Anyway, I remember standing there, listening and I suddenly got really nervous. I just had this really strong feeling that I needed to say something. But I had no idea what. And then I felt this little…almost like a push from behind. But when I turned around, there was no one nearby.

Then the next thing I knew, I was walking towards the podium. And then there I was, standing at the mike…without a clue of what I was going to say. Boy, did that room of a thousand people ever go quiet fast.

And then I heard myself say, “I am SO determined to make sure something good comes from John’s death.”

And now here we are, almost 15 years later, and it is absolutely amazing to see just how much good has come from John’s death through the workplace safety initiatives of the JPMF – and in many other ways, too.

But what I didn’t know all those years ago, standing at the podium as a broken-hearted and terrified young widow, was that the key to ensuring positive change came from John’s death had very little to do with “I” and everything to do with learning how to work with like-minded individuals who cared just as much as I did that John’s death hadn’t been in vain.

And since you’re here tonight, you fall into that category…one way or another.

But in the early days, some of those like-minded individuals were the 3 police officers –recruit classmates of John’s – who started the JPMF: Cliff O’Brien, Glenn Laird and Joel Matthews. And through brainstorming together, we realized that the tragedy of John’s preventable death could be used as a powerful educational tool to help prevent other workplace injuries and fatalities.

And if John were here today, I think he’d be shocked to see what the 4 of us somehow managed to get off the ground…so I guess we must’ve got some work done over all those lunches and beers at Joey Tomato’s 🙂

But what I also I didn’t know 15 years ago – and I don’t think Cliff, Glenn and Joel did either, which is a good thing – was just how much work it would be to try and tackle an issue as mammoth at workplace safety.

So although the 4 of us figured out pretty quick what we wanted to achieve – educate the public about why and how to make their workplace safe for everyone, including emergency responders – we had no clue how we were going to achieve that…nor how much time, effort and money it would take.

But we muddled through somehow and got the first 2 PSAs done – with the help of a lot of people, including Shannon Lyons who did some great work for us in the early years.

And then Ian Wilson, our Managing Director, found his way to us – and helped us find our way through the Boots PSAs, safety video, Safety Presentation Program and dozens of fundraisers, community education events and countless grant applications.

Ian has been a tremendous blessing to me personally by taking on the role of Managing Director – ’cause I really sucked at it – and is an incredible asset to the JPMF. Ian makes things happen. So thank you, Ian, for all you do, including tonight’s awesome event.

Now you’ve already heard 2 of our safety presenters tonight – Jody Laird and Lindsey Jepson. They are both outstanding speakers – and are doing a phenomenal job getting out into companies, schools and conferences to deliver the JPMF workplace safety messages.

And, as Jody mentioned, it is through the Safety Presentation Program that we are finally starting to see actual behaviour change. So thank you Jody & Lindsey – and welcome to our newest presenter, Sarah Starling.

I’d like to give a quick shout-out to Brian Willis. Brian’s not an official JPMF speaker – i.e. we don’t pay him! – but he delivers officer safety presentations all over North America…and always mentions the JPMF.

I’d like to give a special thanks to Sarah Hourihan, who was our first Safety Presentation Coordinator. Sarah did a tremendous job getting the program going. And now Carolee Israel-Turner has jumped in with both feet and doing a great job.

I’d also like to thank Kristin Atkinson, who is the Secretary on our Board and a long-time volunteer and very dear friend of mine – as well as Aaron Chakowski, who is a now a Director on our Board. And welcome to our newest Board members, Rui Medeiros and Paul Wyatt.

And a huge thank you to ALL our volunteers over the years…from those who have worked our casinos, the CPS ½ Marathon, the CPA golf tournament and everything in between. Our volunteers are absolutely imperative in helping us raise the funds needed, for us to get our safety messages to the public.

Thanks also to all financial supporters and donors…and that includes all of you who come out to our special events, drink too much and then spend lots of money at our silent auction!

I’d also like to thank Jan Stuggert, who works in Occupational Health & Safety. Jan is a tremendous supporter of the JPMF and she is one of our pipelines to the OH&S world – some of whom are here tonight. So thank you Jan and to all of you in OH&S – both for coming this evening and supporting the JPMF…as well for all the important work you do, day in and day out.

And on that note, a big thank you to all the police officers, firefighters and EMS in the room tonight…it is an honour to be able to work with the JPMF to help raise public awareness about the risks you face on the job. So thank you for doing the work you do…and thank you to your spouses and family for all their behind the scenes support.

Which brings me to my own family and friends – and John’s family and friends. Although you probably think I’m crazy – which I am – for my rather obsessive dedication to the JPMF, I think you know that the work we’re doing does make a difference. And so for your behind the scenes support all these years, I thank you.

The past 15 years have taught me what team-work can achieve. Workplace safety IS a massive and complicated issue.

But by working with others and using John’s death as a powerful – and personal – example of what can happen when safety isn’t a priority, we are collectively working towards creating a culture where everyone gets home safely from work.

On a final note, I’d like to share with you a little chat that Cliff and I had a couple of months ago – about tonight’s event.

Now, Cliff and I have had many little “chats” over the years…and they often go something like this: “Hey, Cliff, I have a great idea for the Memorial Fund!”

“Uh huh.”

“Okay, so for a fundraiser, how about we make some of those bobble-head dolls for the dash board on cars! We can sell them for $50 each and there can be a police one, a fire one and an EMS one!”


So I keep going: “Maybe we could even have a John bobble-head as the police officer…no, no, that’s kinda weird. Okay, we could have you or Glenn or Joel’s head bobbing around up there…”

Then Cliff gives me the look. And says: “You are kidding, right, Pope?”

And another bad idea shot down! But it proves my point about the importance of team-work.

Anyway, the chat Cliff and I had a couple of months ago was of a more serious nature. Because, in usual Cliff-style, he said it like it was: “This 15 year anniversary-thing…I don’t like the word celebration. Yes, we’ve achieved a lot in John’s memory – but the whole reason for the existence of the JPMF is nothing to celebrate.”

He’s absolutely right. But therein lies the paradox of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. An incredible guy by the name of John Petropoulos died at the age of 32 – because of a missing safety railing.

But since we can’t bring John back, the next best thing we can do – and are doing – is help ensure that what happened to John doesn’t happen to others…one PSA viewing, one safety presentation at a time.

So then perhaps tonight we are…commemorating 15 years of achievements, while remembering a pretty awesome guy who gave his life in the line of duty.

But we still have an awful lot of work to do.

Since John’s death in 2000, more than 14,000 Canadians have died from work related injuries or illnesses. That is staggering.

But on a happier note…actually, it’s not that happy either. But it’s gonna have to do ‘cause that’s what’s next on the agenda. The JPMF Board is having to say good-bye to one of the founding members: Glenn Laird.

Glenn has been the Treasurer for 15 years! That’s incredible. Mind you, in the early years, of course, the Treasurer position was fairly quiet because there were very little deposits to keep track of! We had lots of ideas but no money! But, as the JPMF grew, so did the number of trips to the Calgary Police Credit Union…as did all the e-mails flying back and forth.

But Glenn has been much more than the money-guy for the JPMF. Glenn’s motto has always been, “Let’s get ‘er done, Pope.” After John’s death, there was a time to grieve and a time to plan. And then the time came to get things done. And through his actions, Glenn taught me how to get out of my own damn way – and just get done whatever needs doing.

Glenn, on behalf of the JPMF, I cannot thank you enough for all your hard work over the past 15 years. Now, as a big rough & tough cowboy and former Tac cop, I would love to make you cry, so here goes:

As you know, my Mom and John did NOT get along. But my Mom did respect him. And she always said you can usually tell the calibre of a man by the quality of his friends. And Glenn, you have proven this to be true.

You have gone way above and beyond the call of friendship…and I know John would be so proud of all you’ve done to help ensure his death wasn’t in vain.

And Cliffy, that goes for you, too.

Now if you can both come up here a sec, as Glenn we have a little something for you from the JPMF…in appreciation of your 15 years of hard labour.

P.S. It worked…I actually DID get Glenn to have a bit of a sniffle!

MA, Glenn & Cliff at JPMF 15th anniversary event

L to R: Cliff O’Brien, Maryanne Pope & Glenn Laird

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the playwright of Saviour. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To receive Maryanne’s e-zine, please subscribe here.

published in Change, Fear, Inspiration, Procrastination, Public Speaking by Maryanne | March 25, 2015 | 10 Comments

Dealing with Dread & the Benefits of Being Back in the Saddle


MA speaking holding AWA

Maryanne speaking at BC Police-based Victim Services Conference, Surrey, BC 2010

  You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Is there a task or activity you used to do, and know you need to return to doing, but still manage to come up with every excuse in the book not to? Something you’ve deliberately been avoiding…perhaps even dreading?

For me, it was public speaking. Despite delivering dozens of presentations over the years, standing in front of a room full of people was never something I was comfortable doing, let alone found enjoyment in. It was, however, an activity I was reasonable good at – and one I suspected was important. I just wasn’t entirely sure why.

But a few years ago, I reached a point where my anxiety about an upcoming presentation became an issue. I would get nervous weeks in advance and that anxiety, not surprisingly, spilled over into other aspects of my life. The date of an upcoming presentation loomed like a shadow over my days – and the closer I got to presentation-day, the stronger the sense of dread. By the time the actual date arrived, I was a bundle of nerves.

Clearly, if I was going to continue public speaking, something would have to change.

The first step was obvious: stop delivering presentations. So I did. And I focused my energies on writing, my company and enjoying the time I had left with my elderly dog, Soda. I also came across an excellent book entitled, Start With Why, by Simon Sinok. So I asked myself: why was it important that I resume delivering presentations?

My answer was threefold:

1. Because the workplace safety messages could save a life

2. Because the personal nature of my story evokes an emotional response with people, thereby increasing the potential for a change in behaviour

3. Because communicating via the spoken word reaches a different audience than the written word

Fair enough. But I think I’d known all that before – and in the long run, it hadn’t been enough to ease my anxiety as a public speaker. So last summer, I sought out the advice of Brian Willis, a mentor of mine who is a highly effective professional public speaker.

“Here’s the deal,” Brian said, referring to Nancy Duarte’s Harvard Business Review Guide to Persuasive Presentations: “the person presenting is not the hero in the room. The hero is the audience. It is up to the people hearing the presentation who will determine whether or not they’ll actually take the messages they’ve heard and implement them in their own lives in some way. That’s what determines whether a speaker is effective or not. Unfortunately, many speakers never figure this out. They think it’s all about them.”

Upon hearing this, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I realized that when I did get back to public speaking, I didn’t have to be perfect. I just had to do my job as a presenter and reach the audience in a way that had the best chance of inspiring them to take action.

But how best to do this, without being a nervous wreck living in constant dread of the next presentation?

Well, when the time came for me to prepare for a presentation last month – get back in the saddle after a few years away! – I turned to another piece of advice by Brian Willis: practice, practice, practice.

The purpose of this strategy, Brian had explained, is to train the mind so that it knows the story. So when I’m up in front of the audience, I’m not trying to remember what comes next because I’ve already pre-programmed it into my brain. In other words, I don’t need to focus on remembering the story – I just need to tell it.

In the weeks leading up to the presentation, I thought about what I wanted to say – but I didn’t experience any anxiety. I did, however, have a game-plan. And so, a mere four days before the presentation, I calmly jotted down the key points I wanted to make and the rough chronological order of the story I wished to share.

The next morning, I read the notes once then put them aside. Then I stood in my living room and delivered a rough version of the presentation…and I do mean rough. For not only was I all over the place in terms of telling the story, I also couldn’t stop crying. By the time I got to the part about seeing my husband, John, in the hospital for the first time since his fall, I was sobbing uncontrollably.

This emotional response had not been factored into my plan. And in between sobs, I thought to myself, Oh no! What if this happens when I’m actually delivering the presentation?

So I took a deep breath and exhaled – and it hit me that while the time away from delivering presentations had been good for me on many fronts, the biggest benefit may well have been that I had finally given my heart a chance to fully heal.

Perhaps the tears in my living room were a good sign? For the story of John’s easily preventable death is sad – which is precisely why it can be such an effective conduit for change. Maybe I needed to really feel all those difficult emotions again, so as to help me deliver a more effective presentation? At any rate, I called it a day and just had to have faith in the process.

The next day, I delivered the presentation to my living room walls again – and cried significantly less. Hooray!

The next day I took a break and didn’t even think about the presentation, let alone practice it. Then the next day, I delivered it to my living room walls one final time – and I knew I was going to do just fine.

On presentation day, I made the decision not to take an outline, or any notes whatsoever, up with me to the podium. Notes had always been my baby blanket. Even if I didn’t have to refer to them, having them in my pocket made me feel more confident. But notes also meant structure and I didn’t want to be trying to remember to hit all my key points. Rather, I just wanted to share the story that I had already trained my brain to recall.

And that’s exactly what happened; Brian’s technique worked beautifully. I found my voice – and it was, to my surprise, the voice of a storyteller versus a “presenter.” My presentation wasn’t perfect. But it was real. It was honest. Yes, it was heartbreakingly sad (although I didn’t cry, the pregnant women in the audience didn’t fare so well) but the Q&A at the end was actually pretty funny (my post-widow love life is rather hilarious and, strangely enough, always of great interest to audiences).

And then there was the benefit that spilled over into the rest of my life. For I thoroughly enjoyed the next 3 weeks of my vacation…perhaps more so than I would have, had I not got back in the saddle as a speaker. For the sense of achievement that came from doing – to the best of my ability – the thing I thought I could not do, served to enhance my enjoyment of the more pleasurable things in life.

Five Tips to Help You Get Back In The Saddle:

1. If you know you need some time off from doing a task or activity, take it.

2. Ask yourself WHY it’s important that you return to doing that task or activity. If you can’t come up with a decent enough answer, then there’s your answer.

3. If you do decide to resume the task or activity, then come up with a game plan that will ensure you succeed. Educate yourself on how best to proceed.

4. Learn from your past mistakes – and apply those lessons moving forward.

5. Reward yourself for having the courage and wisdom to get back in the saddle…and enjoy the ride. Whatever it is, make it your own.

“Either you control your mind or it controls you.”

– Robin S. Sharma, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the playwright of Saviour. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here