Have you ever been afraid to do something?
Actually, I've been afraid of a lot of things. Public speaking and being on camera are two of them.
Last year at Alt Summit, I was talking with the fabulous Kara Kull of Fabulistas about the importance of video and how scary it is to put yourself out there. We swapped horror stories about our first experiences of getting on stage and waxed poetic about the sheer courage it takes to put yourself out there like that.
I wanted to share it with you today because, a.) it's hilarious NOW and b.) courage isn't always a quiet roar, sometimes it's simply the ability to keep yourself from puking on stage.
Allow me to paint the picture.
11 years ago, I took a job that moved my husband and me to Pittsburgh. When interviewing, I was told that public speaking was a very small portion of the job (so not true). I squirmed in my seat at the very mention of public speaking but figured, what the hell. We really wanted to be back in the 'Burgh, so it would be worth it.
A few months in, I was sent to a local school district to give my very first presentation. I was told what time to be there and where to find my contact. Armed with my note cards, I got in the car and drove to my destination.
I stopped in the bathroom when I got there to (hyperventilate and) calm my nerves. When I felt steady enough, I stepped out and found my way to the meeting spot. My contact greeted me and gave me some background information about the district.
I was taken to the High School auditorium, where 350+ teachers, aides, and other school employees were listening to speaker after speaker talk about their benefits.
It took all of 2 seconds to realize that I was in over my head.
They brought me to the stage (THE STAGE), handed me a microphone, and gave me the thumbs up to begin.
Like a fucking dear in headlights, I froze.
I wasn't sure whether I was going to pass out or throw up. Or both.
When I finally opened my mouth, I squeaked. So I stared down at the note cards in my hands (which were trembling like an 8 on the Richter Scale) and read without looking up. I'm pretty sure I could have rivaled the Micro Machine Man with how fast I was talking.
The teacher's — who are notoriously the worst audience to speak in front of — were rapt with attention for fear that any movement would cause me to burst into tears.
When I stepped off the stage, two kind women came up to me, patted me on the arm, and told me that I did a great job. (Out of pity, of course. Because even I knew that I was the worst speaker of the day ... maybe even the year.)
Why am I telling you this?
Because 11+ years later, I am approached after every presentation, event, and workshop I run and am complimented on my ability to get up in front of a crowd and speak so eloquently.
It always makes me laugh, knowing how my journey into public speaking started: with panic attacks, speed talking, shaking hands, puking, and all.
I had the courage to get up there and do it.
Even though I couldn't look up. Even though my hands were shaking so badly from nerves that I could barely read the cards. Even though I legitimately sucked.
I got up there. And I DID IT.
Where in your life (or work) could you stand to infuse a bit of courageous action-taking?
Send me an email and let me know. I'll cheer you on from the sidelines and encourage you to put one foot in front of the other. And if you have a similarly embarrassing (and empowering) story to share, I'd love to hear that too.