My First Time: Carman Cullen-Batt

Photo: Anthony Rao

Public speaking


Carman Cullen-Batt, of Leesburg, learned it’s important to speak slowly to her audience.

“My first public speaking challenge was in 1991 at a chamber breakfast in front of about 70 people. I was terrified. The night before, I wrote every word on index cards and spent hours in front of the mirror practicing my delivery,” Carman recalls of presenting information about a chamber-sponsored golf tournament.

“I considered pretending that everyone in the audience was unrobed, but I quickly gave up that thought as it would mean I was unrobed as well,” she says. “I spoke so quickly that no one in the room understood what I was saying.”

Carman has come a long way from her first public speaking engagement. As executive director of the Educational Foundation of Lake County, she now speaks at civic clubs, schools, and state meetings at least once a week.

“I no longer practice in the mirror. I have learned to speak slowly,” she adds.

 “Every time I speak about the Educational Foundation and how we serve our students and teachers, I am passionate and excited. Hopefully, my enthusiasm spreads to my audience,” Carman says.

Her advice to others preparing to speak before the public: “I find it’s important to emphasize the ‘why,’” she says. “If your audience understands the why, everything else falls into place. Most importantly…speak slowly.”

Carman’s next public speaking engagement will be Jan. 18 during TEDxEustis at the Historic State Theatre in downtown Eustis.

“My topic title is ‘20,000 Turkey Legs and a Heart for Education,’” she says, explaining her attention-grabbing title is to promote the foundation. “The foundation has designed events to target specific audiences, and our largest fundraiser is the Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire.”

So why are turkey legs significant?

“The culinary departments in seven of our high schools cook all of the food for the event,” Carman says, proudly adding, “including our turkey legs.”