I Survived… I Think

21 04 2010

So, one day after the event, I can look back with equanamity. If you read my public speaking post, you might have gotten the impression I don’t like to speak in front of groups.

That’s partially true. And I’m a procrastinator who avoids thinking about the presentation until the last minute, then…gulp!…realizes that it’s time to go out the door, and I have no time left to prepare. Why do I do that? It means I panic as I rush to pull some thoughts together as I drive to my destination and pray that I’ll come up with an interesting and inspirational topic. Yes, I was asked to talk about myself, but every talk should be structured like a story, with a beginning (inciting incident), middle (rising action), and ending (dramatic conclusion).

Luckily for me, my muse works well under pressure. I came up with several exciting (at least I hoped they were) events in my life and made them steppingstones, using an underlying theme of how I jump into careers, then learn on the job, often after I being forced to change directions by a tragedy or a roadblock. That helped me choose my anecdotes.

But I also like to give each audience a takeaway, something meaningful that they can apply to their own lives. My muse, my creative mind, my subconscious didn’t fail me. It dredged up a wonderful idea–one I’d heard years ago in someone else’s speech that had a powerful effect on my life…

Stay tuned for: Seeing the Other Side

Public Speaking: Worse than Death?

18 04 2010

More people say they fear public speaking more than death. Is that true? And why is it authors get asked to speak in public when their forte is the written word? My post on the subject has been moved to the Susquehanna Writers blog.

Finding Courage

25 06 2009

I have a dream, and I’m working toward it, but I’ve been struggling with many things along the way. Today I read Michael Hyatt’s blog:  6 Steps to More Courage. For me, courage means following my heart and doing what I know is right. Not just speaking up about injustice, but doing something about it. People around the world are risking their lives to do just that.

When I realize that, it puts my own worries in perspective. Yes, I may fail, but is failure the end of the world. Many people used failure as the stepping stone to other greater ventures. So can I. But I don’t intend to fail. I plan to succeed, and I know I will. I’m surrounded by great people who offer a helping hand when I need it most, who sacrifice themselves for my dream, who work hard to help, who support when I’m down. It’s hard not to be courageous with so many encouragers in my life.

One of my biggest encouragers was my dad. I’ll never forget a time I was offered a leadership position in an organization. I wanted to take it, but it meant doing a speech in front of 200+ people every month. I couldn’t speak up in a small group of 4 or 5 people. I’d NEVER be able to do that.

My dad asked, “Would you take this on if you didn’t have to speak?”

“In a minute” was my reply.

“Then tell them ‘yes.’ You can conquer your fears if you follow your heart.”

I took his advice, and I learned to do public speaking. It wasn’t easy. I signed up for a class that had 6 participants. After our first class assignment–standing in front of the group to say our names, hometowns, and 3 things about ourselves–I raced to the bathroom and threw up multiple times. I was that frightened. Each week on the way home from class, I’d have to pull over to the side of the road, because I was so ill.

By the time I did my first speech for the organization, I could do it without getting sick, but my legs and arms trembled and I couldn’t remember I word I’d said. I have no idea if what I said even made sense. But now, years later, I can get up in front of a crowd of 500+ and speak extemporaneously, if need be, with barely more than a quiver in my stomach.

And that also means I can find the courage to tackle this new venture. Someday I’ll look back on all my trembling and wonder what scared me so. For now, I’ll move ahead and keep repeating my dad’s advice:

“You can conquer your fears if you follow your heart.”

What have you been putting off because you’re afraid? Why not step out in faith and try it today? Feel free to share your own stories of courage. We’d love to hear them.