It’s the night before I’m due to speak on a stage, in front of an audience who are paying actual money to be entertained… There I am. Lying in bed, tears streaming down my face.
‘I can’t… I don’t want to… He’s making me sound like a retired porn star…’
My long-suffering partner sighs silently to himself. He tells me I don’t need to do anything I don’t want to (cunning move, this kind of talk always spurs me on). Then he comes a smart quip about Belle de Jour. This makes me laugh. And I stop blowing my nose long enough to smile, at least at the thought that in his head I in any way remind him of Catherine Deneuve.
I’d just been having an email conversation having a difference of opinion about what the title of my talk should be, at a local event the next night. My talk event host is blithely unaware of how seriously I am taking this. (Perhaps until he gets an email which is mostly in capitals with the phrase ‘ABSOLUTELY NOT!’ repeated several times.)
Am I having a disproportionate meltdown? Absolutely.
Am I caught up in am emotional whirlpool that feels more like a tornado? YES!
Am I aware of all that, that I know logically that this feeling will pass, it’s just an emotion telling me I’ve hit a mental speed-bump, but still freaking out with a racing mind which appears to have forgotten lots of things, like full stops for instance? OH YES.
But the thought of coming off sounding like I’m planning to recount the loves and lives of an X-rated movie starlet had sent me over the edge of rational and into teary meltdown.
I am reminded of the little girl I blogged about a week or so ago… But I wasn’t being diva, and neither was she. We were overwhelmed.
I go to sleep, exhausted by my tantrum (while my partner probably lies there blinking at the ceiling). Then the next morning I get up, redraft the title to one I can stomach (and so can the event organiser – hurrah) and the day moves on. I also rewrite big chunks of my talk. And it was probably better for that too.
Fear lives in the amygdala. I know public speaking is a big fear issue for many people. I know I’m not alone. But I feel like I am. As do we all at these times.
I’ve not spoken in public for a long time. Like 40 odd years long. Not like this. I’m invested in this. This is for me. When you’re invested beyond waving a pointer at a powerpoint in front of a committee; it’s different. it’s personal.
So why am I doing this? Scaring seven shades out of myself here, and doing so on a regular basis these days…
My top 3 fear pay offs
- Fear is a friend not an enemy
It’s very easy for me to say ‘fear is just a flag, acknowledge it and move on’ because I do a fair amount of saying ‘hello’ to fear and spending time dancing with her (I think Fear is female, but that’s just my fancy). Rather than hide from Fear, I like to hang out with her from time to time, because I’ve noticed interesting things happen when I do. When she reduces you to a big sob mess, you’re on to a winner. This is your 100-1 winner, you’ll get so much more back than you invest. I knew my teary, sobbing fit meant this was big. I was right and it was worth every moment of vulnerability.
2. Fear is a catalyst for creativity
If you want to move forward, think differently, take on tasks that you suspect are beyond you, do one thing that scares you. Just a wee one. Because facing fear has big pay offs. All that ‘but I can’t…’ mind chatter starts hearing ‘yeah, but you did’. And if you can do one you can do another… and another…
3. Great ideas keep surfacing
I was really struggling to find meaningful blog topics before the talk. Now I cannot stop! Three months of ideas banked! Fear kicks down doors in many ways.
So how did I prepare for this first big public speaking step?
I have a method and it worked for me. People like the podcaster and entrepreneur, Tim Ferriss and Susan Cain, the author of Quiet and another Introvert, prepare to speak publicly in similar ways too.
A blog for another day, very soon…