Sarah and Joe at a keynote conference.

Interview: The Importance of Audience-Centered Speaking – Sarah Possenti, Keynote Speakers Agent

Sarah Possenti shares her thoughts and experiences on audience-centered speaking.

This month is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Sarah Possenti, Keynote Speakers Agent with the Mollie Plotkin Group, is a public advocate on Parkinson’s treatment herself. Her husband, Joseph Possenti was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s disease and is very active in the Parkinson’s community. In this interview, Sarah Possenti gave us her comments on audience-centered speaking, as well as her experience being an advocate.

The Importance of Audience-Centered Speaking

Sarah believes that she and her husband inspire so many others because their story is audience-centered. Namely, rather than speaking as healthcare providers or medical professionals, they speak to the stories of the individuals within the audience. 

“Sharing our journey with Parkinson’s Disease and how we live well with it is extremely impactful to an audience also living with the disease,” says Sarah, commenting on her experiences with audience-centered speaking. She goes on to say that, “we share both the good and the bad, but in the end we leave the audience feeling hopeful.”

Additionally, she believes that audience-centered speaking is a mutually gratifying experience for them. Saying that, “inspiring the audience, encouraging them to keep fighting the disease is like medicine for us. We feel as great as the audience when we are done speaking.”

Audience-centered speaking is a personal experience for the speaker and listeners

Sarah and Joseph Possenti speak on behalf of a Parkinson’s drug which has greatly improved Joe’s life. At first though, Joseph was having a difficult time explaining his symptoms to his doctor at the time.

Sarah elaborated on this by saying, “we met when he was 7 years into the disease. He was managing ok, but he wasn’t communicating his symptoms to his doctor. When I came with him to an appointment I came as his advocate.” 

Sarah stresses to her audience that effective communication with your doctor is essential. Effective communication allowed Joseph to find the right medicine that enables him to lead a fulfilling life. 

“Airing the dirty laundry of his disease is how we got to try medicines that made all the difference,” said Sarah. Adding that, “The disease is not a death sentence and it is a disease that people can live many years with.” 

Sarah and Joe motivate and inspire others who have been diagnosed with the disease and their care partners. Additionally, they speak on panels, at seminars, to support groups, and most recently on virtual platforms. Many Parkinson’s Podcasts have featured Joseph, including “When Life Gives You Parkinson’s” a Canadian Podcast.

Sarah and Joe speaking at a conference.
Joseph and Sarah Possenti speaking at a conference.

Audience-Centered Keynote Speakers

As a keynote speaker’s agent, Sarah is passionate about bringing audience-centered experiences to events.

Keynote speakers with disabilities or diseases, such as Robert Paylor, Kevin Reilly, and Matthew S. Newman, connect and inspire their audiences with their lived experiences. 

Here is some more about each of those audience-centered speakers who have struggled with life-changing disease and disability. 

Robert Paylor 

Motivational speaker Robert Paylor shares his story of disability and recovery to inspire his audiences. Following a traumatic injury in the 2017 Collegiate Rugby National Championship, Robert Paylor started on a remarkable journey. From “paralyzed to powerful,” Paylor gives audience-centered keynote speeches on his experiences as a quadriplegic. Featured in Sports Illustrated and NBC, his recovery continues to inspire the nation. Additionally,  Robert Paylor is active on social media, including TikTok, as an inspiring voice for those with disabilities.

Matt Newman

Matt Newman began his public speaking career as a speaker in the financial services sector. As a financial services professional for over 20 years, top firms across the country hired Newman for his expertise. However, his life changed following an unexpected brain cancer diagnosis at just 39 years old. Since then, he saw the flaws in his and many others’ keynote speaking and business communication skills. 

Starting at the Finish Line: My Cancer Partner, Perspective and Preparation, is the memoir that details Newman’s recovery and perspective. Following his diagnosis, Newman realized that he must take an audience-centered approach with his keynote speeches. 

Today, Newman gives keynote speeches on the value of meaningful personal and professional connections.

Kevin Reilly

Kevin Reilly is an inspirational keynote speaker, former NFL linebacker, and the oldest known surviving desmoid tumor patient in the world. The rare tumor cut his NFL career short, and led to the loss of his left arm, left shoulder and top four left ribs. However, Kevin Reilly never lost the courage and discipline he learned in the NFL.

Kevin speaks on many topics that resonate with general audiences. Addiction, relationships, and faith all play a major role in his audience-centered speeches. Furthermore, his book Tackling Life compliments his speeches perfectly, and continues to receive rave reviews and change the lives of its readers.

The Importance of Audience-Centered Speaking

Audience-centered speaking is essential to resonating with an audience and providing a memorable, life-changing experience. Therefore, the Mollie Plotkin Group is honored to have Sarah on our team and to represent such inspiring speakers.

Please visit the Parkinson’s Foundation website and help them improve care and increase access to quality-of-life programs.

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