I'm going to share a story with you. As you read it, can you guess what I'm talking about? The words in italics were thoughts running through my head. Okay, here we go…
Oh my god, can anyone else hear how loud and fast my heart is beating?
Can a heart beat right out of someone's chest? It sure feels like mine is going to.
It's too hot in here, I feel like I'm suffocating.
I think I'm going to pass out.
My hands are so sweaty. My body is so hot. Did someone turn up the heat?
Seriously, it's too hot in here – I'm going to faint.
Oh god, she's wrapping up now. I'm next.
“Aright, Tishia you're up!”
No, no, no, not me. Not my turn. I can't do this. I really can't do this. I'm going to throw up. My whole body is shaking, I don't think I can even stand up.
I grabbed my index cards with shaky hands, reluctantly pulled myself from my chair and slooooowly made my way towards the front of the room.
Has anyone ever passed out from fear? Put one foot in front of the other. Only a couple more steps. You got this.
I made it to the front of the room, gripped the podium with a death grip – my fingers hurt from gripping so tight – and started shaking. Shaking worse than I already was. I was having a hard time breathing. I couldn't catch my breath.
“Tishia, are you ok? Take a couple deep breaths, you'll be ok.”
Breathe. Yeah breathe, I can do that. In, out, inhale, exhale.
“It's ok Tishia, just take your time and get your notes and yourself together.”
This is so humiliating. I'm so embarrassed.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity (when in reality it was probably only a minute) I was ready or so I thought. I opened my mouth to start talking and suddenly I couldn't talk at all, the nerves were back I was shaking again, heart racing, sweat breaking out all over my body and then came the tears and laughter.
Yep, there I was standing in front of my classmates and teacher with tears rolling down my face and laughter that wouldn't stop. Way to go nerves – I'm so glad you made this crummy situation worse than it already was.
“Alright, Tishia how about you sit back down at your desk and do it from there? Will that make you feel more comfortable and less nervous?”
I quickly grabbed my notes and easily made my way back to my desk. And did it. Just like that – no more nerves, no more sweating, no more racing heart. No more nervous laughter (or nervous tears!). Just opened my mouth and delivered – easy peasy!
Did you guess what that story was about?
If not, it was about a 9th grade speech I had to give. Yep, public speaking folks. It scared the H*LL out of me. From that moment on, I vowed I would NEVER do anything that required me to speak in front of a room full of people.
Fast forward several years to college…
Several years later I find myself a freshmen in college (already not wanting to be there, but I digress – that's a completely different story for a different day!). As each professor handed out the class syllabus, I scanned to make sure there was no mention of any speeches needing to be delivered. Phew, so far so good.
And then it happened – one of my professors (I don't even remember what class it was), informed us that we were breaking up into groups of 6 and our group would be required to deliver an 18 minute presentation (each person doing 3 minutes). Let's just say, the day of dread arrived and it went downhill fast. I'll spare you all the details but I hyperventilated…as in real hyperventialition – the professor had to find a paper bag for me to breathe into. Immediately afterwards, I went and dropped the class.
Yep, screw this public speaking stuff. Not for me! No way, no how. Never ever ever would I do it again.
Fast forward many many years to a live business event…
It was 2014 and I was in Toronto, Canada with my friend Kelly McCausey for her very first live event Exposure and Profit. She wanted to ‘break the ice' between all of the speakers and the attendees. After introducing the speakers, it was the attendees turn. For those that were too shy to do it themselves, she gave an “out” – fill out the form, stand on stage & let Kelly read it.
I wanted to take the easy way out. After all, I'd had a few too many humiliating experiences with public speaking to even think about standing on that stage and talking! But I was challenged by another event attendee. Ok, she bribed me really – literally bribed me with hiring me as her Virtual Assistant for 10 hours a month if I got up there and spoke. Well, ok then – I needed the extra income so that's all the bribing it took.
And guess what…
I was nervous as hell. But I didn't pass out. I didn't throw up. I had fun. I even joked around!
Did you get that?
I HAD FUN!
I liked it.
Uhm, what the heck just happened? The girl that hyperventilated years ago and cried and laughed in 9th grade and vowed to NEVER ever do public speaking just stood on stage introducing herself and had fun and liked doing it!
What happened next?
Guess what I did as soon as I got back to Michigan? I went and found a local Toastmaster's group.
I'd like to say that solved all my nerves and suddenly I became the best public speaker, but it didn't work that way 😉 I actually avoided doing my first speech at Toastmasters and then I ended up moving back up North where there isn't a Toastmasters close by.
But I haven't given up on public speaking!
At another business event, NAMS, I volunteered to be taken up on “stage” (front of the room) and interviewed by one of the teachers. And another time, I took the microphone to ask a question. And at a few Beach Camp events I jumped up to grab the microphone and share my takeaways. Or the Beach Camp event I literally jumped at the chance to be taken up front with THE Belanie Dishong (she's the bomb!)
And guess what I did in September?
I spoke. In front of a room full of people. For 10 minutes!
10 full minutes in front of a room full of people with a microphone in my hand.
During a live event, Exposure & Profit 4 in Atlanta, Georgia.
I was scared. I was so nervous. I sweated. I talked fast. But I did it & didn't faint or die 😉
And most of all? I had fun!
My takeaway for you is this:
Never say NEVER!