Doesn’t it feel great to wear your most comfortable shoes? They cushion your arches, aren’t too tight, and your poor toes don’t want to break free! (The same goes for a lovely pair of sweats, but I digress…)

The thing is, though, you wouldn’t always wear those comfy shoes or tracks, especially if you want to make a good impression or have a little more attention paid to you, right? We can all get a little too comfortable. In the floral industry, many of us seem to travel along doing what we do and spinning our wheels. Well, let’s talk about getting out of our comfort zone and bettering ourselves, shall we?

Have you ever listened to an inspirational speaker? Often we leave more charged, ready to conquer the world’s worries, and inspired to become better people. I remember watching a designer on stage back in the day and thought to myself, “I want to do that!” But I never thought I would ever be able to captivate a crowd. Then I remembered what my Mum said when I was a child. “Who says you can’t, Neville?” So, I began my journey of becoming a speaker, presenter, and an “entertrainer.” (FYI: If you are entertained while being trained, you tend to absorb and retain a lot more!)

The first experience I had as a presenter was when I was a child in the 4-H club in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. I had to give a speech and it was dreadful…but I did it. From there, I went on to give demonstrations within the community and beyond, which, as a child, was an incredible thing. But it’s never too late to start, so for those of you who think you are a bit “past it,” remember that apples are as sought after as apple blossoms!

I’ve done presentations across Canada and beyond, and let me tell you, I still get nervous. In fact, sometimes I’m wound up like a cheap watch in anticipation! One of my earliest solo gigs was for the African Violet Society (doesn’t THAT sound exciting?) and I was so scared. I was up there, barely talking (shut up!) and not looking at the crowd of at least 23, when my long-suffering husband, David, calmly and quickly walked up on the stage behind me, not stopping, but saying, “I’d pick up the pace if I were you, Neville. I think the man in the third row is dead!” Well, I looked up and this old fella was slumped in his chair with a big ol’ stream of drool coming down! I was sure I had killed him with boredom. Thank goodness, David went behind him, kicked his chair, and the old bugger came back to life!

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My first TV experience was even worse than that, darlings! I have one leg that shakes terribly sometimes. Not having slept for days, I arrived to be on a live broadcast. Not only did my leg shake, but most everything else did, too, so the producer kindly offered me a seat to present, thank goodness. When this was all done and over, and I was running for the door, that saint of a producer said, “Hey, that was great! Want to come back next month?” I don’t know what came over me, but I said, “Sure! Call me!” then went home to change my pants. The rest is history I suppose.

I’ve always had a big mouth and more nerve than a sore tooth, and my dad told me that would get me in trouble—and also take me places. He was right.

Several years ago, I decided it was time I did a couple things just for me—things that would elevate my credibility and boost my confidence. I tested for and was inducted into the Canadian Academy of Floral Art. I’ve had SO many people ask what this has done for me, and let me tell you, it gives you more prestige than you’ll ever know! “I don’t do shows, and my customers don’t care…” Blah blah blah. YES. THEY. DO. Everyone wants to talk to, work with, or buy from the top of the pile, whether it’s the chef, photographer, or florist, right? I encourage anyone who is even the least bit interested to contact CAFA or message me! Come on, I dare you to be a better you! This honour certainly helped me become one of the design directors with Smithers Oasis North America—an opportunity that has me presenting, teaching, and connecting with florists all over the world.

I also took the steps to get my PFCI accreditation shortly after that, which I am SO happy I did, too! Professional Floral Communicators-International is a wonderful group of floral speakers and presenters, and many doors have opened for me after achieving this!

Now, finally, I’m writing a book! (In fact, I have two in the works!) I have wanted to do this for ages, and frankly, I don’t know what took so long. Oh, and I’ve become a blogger, too, and I’m doing more video work than ever. The only limitations we have are those we place on ourselves. Look, there are loads of fun and exciting opportunities out there floating around us, just waiting for someone to grab them.

Why can’t it be you?

Neville MacKay
Neville MacKay, CAFA, PFCI, WFC is the owner of My Mother's Bloomers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a design director with Smithers-Oasis North America. He designed flowers for the 1988 Winter Olympics, as well as a long list of celebrities including Glen Close, Sir Elton John, and members of the British Royal Family. MacKay appears regularly on Canadian TV and travels internationally giving presentations about the impact of flowers.

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