public speaking… it’s a phrase that strikes terror into the hearts of most people I have met, and it certainly scares me! so why on earth did I add it to the list of things I wanted to do through “no more mr fat guy”?
it’s quite simple really, it is an effective way of getting the message and story across, it is another chance to step (well) outside of the comfort zone, and I kind of enjoy it really, once I am actually doing it…
as with so many things lately, the moment that “public speaking” was added to the list, things started to line up and fall into place. to be honest, this sort of thing still spooks me a little, but I am getting used to it!
back in July, I had the opportunity to present a 10 minute talk, as part of an evening themed around motivation and inspiration, sharing the stage with some really great speakers.
I really enjoyed it and came away from that evening absolutely buzzing, knowing that my story had resonated with members of the audience.
So when I saw that the “Big Think” team were holding auditions for “Big Think 3 – A Simple Kinda Busy”, I threw my hat into the ring, booked an audition spot, and figured that just the experience of the audition would be invaluable, and would provide another step forwards…
the auditions blew me away
we gathered at the Old Mill Theatre in South Perth and I was the last person to speak. That was a double-edged sword to be honest; on one hand I got to enjoy everyone else’s 10 minute presentation (there were 15 of us in total), but on the other hand the quality of the talks caused me to doubt, second-guess and wonder at whether my own talk was up to standard…
regardless of the outcome though, I was determined to make the most of this occasion, learn from the experience, and if I fell short of the mark (as expected) it would give me some great feedback that I could use to improve on things.
which is why I was absolutely stunned when the feedback I received on the day was all positive, and why I was stunned even further when, a couple of days later, I got a phone call from Josh (one of the Big Think team) to let me know I was one of the 5 speakers selected for “Big Think 3” – wow!
preparation, preparation, preparation
the weeks that followed flew past, there was so much to do – I was using the same 10 minute talk I had now done twice, but it now needed to expand out to fill 20 minutes. I also wanted to include some photos in a powerpoint, get a new suit, plain shirt and plain tie (my weightloss journey has now seen me get through 3 suits!) – and above all else I wanted to be sure that I delivered a high quality, professional talk, and not come across as the amateur newbie that I really am…
as with so many of the things that I do, there was very little visible progress for a long time. I think about things, plan them out mentally, visualise and worry… it seems to work for me, though I am sure from the outside it looks very disorganised and last minute.
in fact I didn’t email the powerpoint through to Josh until the day before the show! that was a bit naughty of me really…
all was perfectly calm
it worried me actually, I felt a little too calm. felt that I was feeling too confident that things would go ok… it was a bit like the feeling I had before the London Marathon actually, keeping the emotions in check. Just like London, the morning of the event was a different story.
I woke up feeling nervous as hell, I practiced my talk as I showered, as I drove into South Perth, and as I paced up and down outside the theatre.
My 20 minute talk was taking longer each time; 22 minutes, 23 minutes, 25 minutes!
It was going to be a disaster, I realised that I had not practiced the talk with the powerpoint, had never used a powerpoint as part of any talk or presentation before, had no experience of doing a talk and operating a remote clicker…
I realised that I would have no sense of how much time had elapsed, would have no concept of time until the “2 minute warning” card was held up.
I knew the story, it is my story after all, I knew the closing messages that I wanted to deliver – but I was panicking about the timing, fearing that I would be cut off with half my talk unsaid…
time stood still for the first 3 speakers
sat in the audience for the first half (I was scheduled to talk after the morning tea break) I was in awe of how impressive the first 3 speakers were.
Alicia delivered a wonderful presentation, including a 6 second technique to get thoughts and feelings back on track (and I needed that to calm my own nerves before speaking!)
Vicki gave a powerful talk on the difficult topic of depression, the importance of having the tough conversations and how we can all have an impact on other people’s lives
James impressed with his talk on how getting the basics right can have a massive impact, and change your fortunes. the talk itself was on the topic of CVs, but the analogies and messages are applicable to all areas of life
what I noticed though, was how calmly and slowly they all spoke, how there was superb use os small pauses, enlisting the power of little patches of silence. as I monitored the time, it seemed to stretch out for them, what felt like 10 minutes was actually only 4 or 5. They seemed to have all the time in the world…
would that happen for me? would I benefit from a similar stretching of time?
these were the questions on my mind as I hid in the “green room”
no morning tea for me, just a coffee, taken into the green room behind the stage, and nervously preparing to go out on stage, and hopefully not embarrass myself, or the Big Think team!
I read through the bullet points on a scrap of paper, rehearsed in my mind exactly when I would press the clicker to advance the slides, paced up and down. I put the headset mic on, dropped the control box down the back of my shirt and clipped it to my belt.
before long the audience were coming back into the auditorium, and Tony (MC for the morning) was up on stage.
I dragged myself up the stairs, waited nervously in the wings, heard the introduction, and walked out onto the stage…
“good morning everyone, my name is Gary and they do indeed call me ‘no more mr fat guy’…”
with that line delivered, there was no going back, and I carried on with my intorduction piece, and got into the story itself..
it was all a blur
I know I told my story, I know I used the space on the stage to move around a little, I know the audience laughed when they were supposed to, applauded at appropriate moments, and even gasped when told I had ballooned out to 143kg…
but I am not sure how I got from moment to moment, I don’t really remember anything, except that time for me didn’t feel as though it was stretching, it felt as though it was hiding from me!
I am sure I left half my words out, I felt as though I had got through my 20 minute presentation in 10 minutes. I was sure I was about to try and muddle through and aviod 10 minutes of “dead air”.
The bulk of the story was told, there was no sign of the ‘2 minute warning”, and I had no idea how long I had been talking. The temptation to panic and freeze was very very real!
So for the last two slides in my powerpoint, I delivered content that had previously been unrehearsed. I gave a summary of what had been achieved since completing the first marathon, how my life had been changed.
I told the audience about my plans to cross Australia on foot, running and walking from Perth to Brisbane…
and there it was – “2 minutes” – hurray!
with 2 minutes to go, I knew where I was, the closing message, the “moral of the story”, the key points that I wanted people to have ringing in their ears and rattling around their minds as they left the theatre….
“change your thinking, change your life, and make life amazing… thankyou!”
it was over and I was shaking!
Tony came up on stage, said a few words, thanked me, and then off I went. I had to go and top up my car parking ticket. it was warm outside, I was shaking, I was absolutely buzzing! it was over, I had done it, and it seemed to have gone ok!
after visiting the car park, I then sat in the green room, listening to Ely deliver an awesome keynote, bringing together all the individual threads and messages from the morning. asking the audience if they were “wishing or willing?”
I am sorry though Ely, I am sure I missed huge chunks of your talk, simply because of the adrenaline and the high I was experiencing!
question, answers, chatting and goodbyes
once Ely had finished, all 5 speakers were on stage to answer a question from the audience each. I was still buzzing, but now I felt confident, and had no qualms about answering a question at all.
from there we filed out to the theatre lobby, where we could mingle, chat, connect with audience members, answer questions, exchange contact details and so on.
Several things happened that morning – I made new friends, I learned a lot from some awesome speakers, I connected with some really supportive people, impacted lives and discovered that, despite the nerves, despite the anxiety, I am a public speaker.
and if I can leave you with one piece of advice from my experience, it is this – if you want to do something, if you feel a pull to something, if you know in your heart that you’re meant to do it, then ignore the nerves, face your fears, and just do it.
you will be glad that you did!