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How to Change a Room

What do you do when you walk into a situation where the deck is stacked against you?

This happened to me a few weeks back when I was delivering a keynote for a health care organization. Right before I was to go onstage, the organization gave a moving tribute to Brenda, the long-standing and much-beloved Executive Director who recently passed away. Nearly everyone in the room knew Brenda. They loved her. They missed her dearly. It was the first conference without her, and her absence was deeply felt. Tears flowed freely as the slide presentation ended.

"And now, let's welcome to the stage our opening keynote speaker, Theresa Rose."


I had two choices in that moment: 1) Ignore what happened and bravely plow forward, or 2) honor their grief and transmute it into joy.

I chose #2.

While I was watching the video of a legend I did not know, I could feel the room falling into deep sadness (something that most motivational speakers would agree is NOT an optimal audience mindset). My mind quickly raced as to what my options were. Panic threatened to overtake me. Remembering what I share about mindful productivity, I closed my eyes, took some big belly breaths, and asked my quiet mind what the audience needed. I got a quick response: "You are beautiful."

(Confession: I have stickers with "You are beautiful" on them. One's on my business case, one's on my phone, one's on my desk, and dozens are in ladies' room mirrors, backs of bathroom stalls, and anywhere else I feel compelled to give an almost-legal blast of mojo to unsuspecting eyes in need of a soul boost.)

I quickly searched my purse for a sticker and held it tightly in hand. When I went onstage, I said some heartfelt words about observing Brenda's life and asked who in the audience worked with her the longest and also spent time with her personally. A woman crying in the middle of the room held her hand up. I went to her and told her about my sticker fetish and asked her if she would do me a favor: would she go to her and Brenda's favorite hangout this week and put that sticker in the ladies room so Brenda's spirit can smile upon each woman? Brenda's friend nodded with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. That simple gesture changed the room from grief to celebration.

Then I walked back to the stage and kicked butt for the next 58 minutes. It was a genuine love-fest between the audience, the client, and me.

The only way I could have transformed that room in a matter of minutes was to be present enough to pay attention to what was going on around me. To NOT be on my phone in the hallway waiting for my entrance cue. To center myself and not let fear overtake me.To listen to my quiet mind for guidance. To TAKE ACTION.

When you find yourself in a "negative" environment that is threatening to derail you, you can take the same actions to transform your situation. When we operate from a mindful head-and-heartspace, the answers will present themselves. We just need to be quiet enough to hear them.


Theresa Rose is a business motivational speaker, award-winning author and expert on mindful productivity who helps organizations and their teams make more time, get more done, earn more money and have more fun. Her mission is to inspire and energize as many people as humanly possible to make more mindful choices so that they may improve their lives, their businesses, and their world. For more information, visit

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