How Did I Do at University of Portland?





First thing: I spoke THREE times in one day; I have never done that before!  This was another milestone for me.

I love the University of Portland because I can deliver the same speech, varies ways, to test certain things out.  But THIS time, I delivered the SAME speech, the same way, to all three groups to see if there was any variation in the way certain people view my presentation.

You would think if I didn’t do anything different, all threes groups would behave the same way.   WRONG!  Each of the three groups behaved differently!

To me, I was blown away. How could three groups be so different?I gauge the groups by the laugh I get at the beginning.  If they don’t laugh, I know it will be a tough group.

All three group responded the same way to my questions before I ask before the speech.  I thought if I started with these questions, I would urge them to listen.

I worked up to my first laugh:

I was a young, healthy, active, non-smoking, non-drinking- mostly non- drinking – normal cholesterol man,….. just like this guy! (point, Laugh)






There were no laughs!   I looked at Jill, thinking I didn’t say my line write.  Nope…I said it correctly!  So I continued on, with maybe a chuckle  or two at a few points. Then at the end, they asked a bunch of questions!  Were they the same group that heard my talk?

Then I had the second group.  They REALLY loved the picture!  I had to wait before I could continue because they were laughing so much!  When the end came, they didn’t ask ANY questions…but they stated to thank me…and we had to give another book to someone who didn’t look like she was paying attention but she was actually moved by my talk!

The third group had a few chuckles.  They asked a few questions at the end.  You never know what kind of impact you will have on a group until the very end of the talk, when they are leaving the room.

It must be tough being a stand up comic!

For your well being: A hole in my brain

Jill+Gordon-129 Barbara Christenson, of The Speak Well Being Group, did a review of My Brain LLC.

Dear Friends,

May is Stroke Awareness Month, and I couldn’t be happier to introduce you to a stroke survivor, Gordon Viggiano and his wife, Jill, both of whom I greatly admire and respect. They live right here in my town, Lake Oswego, Oregon, so I’ve attended a couple of their local presentations and met with them about the speaking business. I was so impressed with both of them and they are the nicest people you’ll ever meet. It is very impressive to me to think that Gordon could not put a sentence together after his stroke, and he is now making his way as a profound professional speaker who, in telling his story, can entrance an audience (including professionals) and give them new and startling information from a stroke patient’s point of view.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a taste of their story.

Gordon Viggiano:

A Hole In My Brain

Gordon and Jill Viggiano were a typical family. They lived trying to do things right — working hard, providing for the family, following Christian values. The day after Gordon’s 51st birthday, out of nowhere, the unexpected happened: he suffered a massive stroke. One might say they were dealt a dirty card, but they see it differently. As they see it, the experience was a true test of faith and perseverance.

It started in the evening with a vision problem in Gordon’s left eye. Over the next nine hours, they went from a happy, healthy family enjoying Spring Break, to a vision problem, to a 911 call, to the Emergency Room of a hospital that had never been a part of their health insurance plan, to Jill having a frank discussion with the organ donation lady. In nine short hours, Jill was facing the possibility of losing her husband, financial ruin, and raising their two children alone.

Gordon survived, but not without severe consequences. He had lost the use of the right side of his body, his ability to speak and think, and his memory. While Gordon was lost in the dense fog of his stroke, unable to speak or to understand a full sentence, Jill was faced with the terrible reality of caring for a disabled husband, raising their two children and seemingly inevitable financial ruin.

The entire story of their challenges and determined march toward recovery, are recounted in Jill’s book Painful Blessing. The book is compelling and rich,Painful Blessing by Jill Krantz Viggiano recounting not only the unfolding of the stroke, the subsequent consequences, and the journey back to a new life, but also giving guidelines and hope for anyone who might be faced with this or a similar challenge.

There are two storylines I want to highlight here. First there is Gordon’s amazing will and determination to speak again, and subsequently his path to becoming a professional speaker.

Early in Gordon’s stroke recovery, when they knew nothing of the journey they were heading into, they naively thought that Gordon would be fully recovered in one year. They thought they would have a party for all the wonderful people who had helped them and that they would all celebrate the end of that horrible year. At the one-year anniversary of his stroke, though, Gordon was nowhere near recovered. So they decided to postpone the party until the two-year mark. They thought that he had to be recovered by then, right? Wrong! At the two-year anniversary, he was still in awful shape so they agreed that they would celebrate full recovery at three years. At the three-year anniversary, they finally understood that recovery was probably going to be a lifetime pursuit and that maybe they should just have the party anyway.

Gordon agreed but he said he wanted to talk about the experience at the party. It took six months to write “My Brain Has A Hole In It” and eight months for Gordon to practice enough to deliver the speech. On the four-year anniversary, they had the party and Gordon spoke. The overwhelming feedback was that Gordon needed to tell his story to more people, and so his professional speaking career began. (And, as any professional speaker knows, having a speech is just the very beginning of building a speaking business!)

I have witnessed his presentations, and they are compelling, professional, multi-media, and Gordon at Podium-HoleSlideBckgrndemotionally stirring. Actually, I should be saying “their” presentations because Gordon and Jill are a team, just as they have been all through his recovery. At this time, Gordon offers two speeches. The most stubborn and impactful deficits from Gordon’s stroke are his inability to organize his thoughts and then get the words out. Because of his cognitive inflexibility, any changes to his fully prepared speeches require months of practice to be able to speak to an audience. As a result, he sticks to his script. (PLEASE NOTE: Gordon’s speeches are anything but rote).

At the end of the program, Jill steps to the podium for Q & A, which adds an additional level of credibility, information, and emotional impact as experienced by the patient’s family. Jill also has her own powerful program, based on her book, Painful Blessing, that she delivers to general audiences as well as to caregivers and health professionals.

The second story I wanted to tell is that their programs are appropriate for many more audiences than stroke or heart events. Gordon is an excellent speaker for any meeting planner desiring to set a tone of inspiration and possibility for their meeting. Their talk titled, “Putting Failure in Its Place,” is a great fit for corporate or sales professionals. As a business owner, consultant, and entrepreneur before that fateful Spring Break day, Gordon had always personified the focus and determination necessary to be a top-level business professional. When the stroke rendered him disabled, he used his sales skills to pursue recovery just as relentlessly, and he’s incorporated his method into the talk.

Their programs are also a good fit for insurance/financial, and risk management professionals, as it is not an exaggeration that their investment in a Disability Policy saved them from financial ruin.

“It forces us to think about our lives in a different way- from both a personal and a         professional stand point,” commented one listener. “Change is a part of all of our lives, but we somehow think that terrible and traumatic events will never be a part of our lives. You show us how we can overcome small and enormous adversity.”

Gordon and Jill will inspire people to move beyond their assumptions and their ordinary obstacles and motivate them to imagine and pursue what is possible, as this couple use their inspiring story of emergency, chaos, self-doubt and recovery to model how to handle adversity, and how to prevail.

Although I don’t usually include testimonials, these two convey the impressions of listeners in a way that I could not, and because of that, I think they are worth your attention:

I invited Gordon and his wife Jill to be the keynote speakers for Deloitte’s National Sales Meeting, and they knocked the cover off the ball! I’ve hired sports heroes, navy seals, and other terrific motivational speakers in the past but Gordon’s story was the most powerful. The hundreds in attendance unanimously agreed that Gordon’s inspirational story of loss, recovery, hope and faith was a real eye opener and provided all of us with a reminder of what’s really important in life.

          Tom Lutz
          Managing Director of Sales, Deloitte


Gordon Viggiano was the keynote speaker at our recent Comprehensive Stroke Center celebration. Gordon gave a moving presentation on the stroke survivor’s experience from the Emergency Department, waking up in ICU, working hard in Rehab and then the continual recovery over the past 7 years.  He is an engaging speaker who shares his personal story with humor and honesty.  The audience was made up of nurses, therapists, physicians and hospital administration. Gordon’s presentation gave everyone in the room a fresh perspective on stroke survivorship.

Gordon was joined at the end of the presentation by his wife Jill to answer questions and share how this experience has shaped their lives.  They are an example to healthcare providers of how life post- stroke can be full of meaning and purpose.

We are so thankful that Gordon was able to join us for our celebration.

          Linda Stanford, MSPT
          Project Lead Comprehensive Stroke Center
          Legacy Emanuel Medical Center

For a taste of their programs, click on this link and view a video clip from my web site, and to learn more about bringing them both to your community give me a call at 503-699-5031 or email

Until next time, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.

Yours truly,

For Your Well Being is published bi-weekly. We bring you insider speaker reports, exclusive stories about special events around the country, meeting planner tips, and fun stuff from the worlds of health and well being. Be well and be in the know!

The Speak Well Being Group is a specialized speakers bureau, focusing on speakers for hospital-sponsored community events, healthcare organizations, conferences and women’s groups. Our speakers are hand-selected. They are not only experts in their fields, they know how to connect with women and give them life-changing information served on a silver platter of joy, camaraderie, with a side of sauce (spicy, of course).

Finding the perfect keynote speaker for your special event or conference is my personal passion, not just once, but year after year. It brings me endless joy to know that your audience was delighted and moved by the speaker we selected together. I’m committed to making the process easy, pleasant and fun.


For more information:


Southern Diet” Strongly Linked To Heart Disease

By Alice G. Walton
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

A new study finds that people who eat a traditionally Southern diet, high in fried and fatty foods, are at higher risk for heart disease. Although this may sound like it falls under the category of “not surprising,” the study is important, since it gives more scientific backing to what would by now seem obvious. It may also propel people who are devoted to the unhealthy, if delicious, way of life into a healthier, more heart-friendly one. But it may not be so easy. The lingering question is how to make diet-related suggestions that people can actually put into effect.

The researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham looked at data from over 17,000 Caucasian and African-American people over the age of 45 who had never suffered from heart disease. They asked the participants, who lived in regions throughout the country, to fill out food frequency questionnaires; all participants also had physical exams. The team touched base with the participants periodically over the next six years to see whether any had developed heart disease.

What emerged in the analysis of eating habits was five distinct patterns:

    • The Southern pattern: Fried foods, fatty foods, added fats, eggs, processed meats, such as bacon and ham, organ meats (e.g. liver), and sugary drinks
    • The Convenience pattern: Easy-to-fix foods like pasta dishes, Mexican food, Chinese food, and pizza.
    • The Plant-Based pattern: High in fruits and vegetables, cereals, beans, yogurt, poultry and fish.
    • The Sweets pattern: Foods with more added sugars, desserts, chocolate, candy, and sweetened breakfast foods.
    • The Alcohol/Salads: Characterized by beer, wine, liquor, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes and salad dressings.

And here are the significant results: People who reported high adherence to a Southern style diet had a 56% increased risk of developing coronary heart disease than people who ate it the least. And this was true even when the team accounted for variables like, age, sex, race, education, household income, region, energy, smoking, and physical activity. Southern diet eaters were also more likely to have hypertension, dyslipidemia (dysregulation of blood fats), and diabetes, but again, even when these variables were taken out, the association between a Southern diet and heart disease still stood.

It’s worth mentioning who the average Southern-diet consumer was: He tended to be male, over the age of 65, African-American, a non-high school graduate, living on an income less than $20,000/year, and be a resident of the “stroke belt,” including North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. The geographic element isn’t surprising, but the fact that the average Southern diet consumer was also of lower socioeconomic status and older may mean they don’t feel they have a lot of other alternatives regarding food choice.

Still, the connection was present in people of all socioeconomic (SES ) classes, so there’s clearly a link worth paying attention to – and there are several likely mechanisms to explain it. The Southern diet is typically high in processed meats, which are high in salt and in nitrates, which are in turn linked to heart risk. The high sugar content of the diet may also lead to negative effects, like insulin resistance and inflammation. Finally, a potentially high trans fats intake could also make one more prone to heart disease.

It’s hard to convince people to change diet habits that have been with them for a lifetime, and not all suggestions are useful. One health expert, in response to the study, suggested that “one might encourage Southern food eaters to opt for oven-fried nut-crusted chicken. Or New York-style collard greens simmered with extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and organic vegetable stock.” Perhaps the stroke belt’s upper echelon can take this advice, but it seems unlikely that advice like this would be useful to someone whose income is less than $20,000/year, as were many of the participants in the study who were at the highest risk.

Smaller and more feasible changes might have a greater effect. ”Regardless of your gender, race, or where you live, if you frequently eat a Southern-style diet you should be aware of your risk of heart disease and try to make some gradual changes to your diet,” said study author James M. Shikany. “Try cutting down the number of times you eat fried foods or processed meats from every day to three days a week as a start, and try substituting baked or grilled chicken or vegetable-based foods.” For most people eating any kind of less-than-ideal diet, Southern or not, the smallest changes are usually the place to start.

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What a place!

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 4.59.44 PMMental note:  Favorite hotel is now The Allison in Newberg.  No detail is overlooked–free snacks in the room, down pillows, fireplace, stunning bathroom, views of the vineyards.  Really impressive.

I had the privilege of speaking at the Inspire & Aspire Women’s Conference at the hotel. I talked about the quiet courage and sacrifice of the women that came before me in my family and pose these questions:  1) Do those women matter today?  2) Will we matter tomorrow?

The answers?  1) Yes they matter!  And 2) Gosh, I certainly hope so.

Our survival story has been playing out in our book, our speeches, and our ongoing recovery.  Your survival story will be different.  I encourage you all to ask these same questions of the people in your life.  I also encourage you to consider your impact.  How will you answer?

Jill Viggiano


That was Jill.  Truly amazing!  I hate to gush…but I will.  It is Sunday night.  Your probably preparing for your Monday as you read this.

I head this speech a lot…but this time it was different. As she addressed the group, I could “FEEL” each slide.  Does that make sense?  Her presentation was spot on.  Her annunciation….her pauses…. her timing….her jokes….were perfect. I can’t praise Jill enough.

Jill’s presentation is about MY recovery…from HER perspective…not MY perspective.  In her speech, she covers:


  • How bad I really was
  • Risk of raising our 2 children
  • Long, long road of recovery
  • My crazy path of recovery and all the different stages
  • Changes she faced
  • What she learned as a result of the experience
  • How she is different now

Jill completes her talk with:

I am ok with my weakness! I am a better person for it.  I am wiser and more compassionate.  I try to live with gratitude and a cheerful heart.  Reaching this place of peace in my life has been a Painful Blessing, but a blessing all the same.


Good…but different

After giving my speech last week, an audience member thanked me for talking about how “normal life” changes after a dramatic event.  He talked about the realization that “recovery” doesn’t necessarily mean going back to the way things were.

This is an important distinction.  In my speech, I talk about Gordon’s and my decision that life was still going to be good after his stroke, even though it was going to be different.   When our “normal life” was taken away from us, we chose to embrace the different life we were given.

There is still love and happiness to be had in this different life.  Yes, I miss the old life sometimes but I cannot let myself dwell on it.  It is gone.  We have today and it is good–good but different.

Jill Viggiano

Thank you Hollis Magee

psu scanI just finished my second semester in the Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic at Portland State University.

Last semester, I had such a wonderful student.  She really cared how I was doing and truly gave it her all.  I felt it was my job to do my best.

This semester, I had a different student: Hollis Magee.  At first, she did everything “different” then the student who I admired.  I sensed, she was a bit tougher…and I was inspired by it. And you know what, my progress EXCELLED during my weeks with her!  What I realized is everyone has there own style of teaching and that we should appreciate that and learn from them. I attribute it to the fact that she did really care and had excellent counseling from the faculty.  The students and faculty are FANTASTIC and they honestly do really care about the people they treat.  My hat is off to them…doing such an amazing job with their patients.  I can’t wait for the fall semester. Bless you Hollis Magee.