This past weekend Steve did his Conscious Growth Workshop for 114 people at Harrah’s. It was an amazing experience for him, for the attendees, and also for me. I now have a new reference experience in one of the areas I’m actively working on: professional speaking.
If you’ve been following my blog regularly you’ll know that I’ve always had a deep fear of public speaking but that I’ve been actively working on overcoming it by taking massive action in the direction of my goals. I joined Toastmasters 3.5 years ago, I’ve volunteered to introduce Steve when he goes on stage, I recently entered and won my first toastmaster contest, I volunteered to be President of one of the largest Toastmaster clubs forcing me to speak in front of a large audience at every meeting, I did a one hour radio show, and a 90-minute video interview. All of these actions are part of my plan to become comfortable with public and professional speaking.
The first time I introduced Steve on stage I was so nervous. The old me would have quit speaking right then and there. “Forget it, that sucked, I made a fool of myself, we’re never doing that again!” But I’ve come to learn that failures and even embarrassments are nothing to be afraid of. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back in the game. So when Steve asked if I wanted to speak at the workshop I said yes even though it terrified me. I knew that saying yes was the right thing to do. I didn’t let the fear stop me. But I told Steve that I didn’t want to prepare anything. I wanted to be in the moment and stay fully present, not get stuck in my head trying to remember something I’d memorized. He agreed that was best.
During his planning he would occasionally ask me things like, “Do you want to tell your Star Trek story?” or “Do you want to be on stage when I do the relationship segment?” I told him to put me wherever he thought would serve the audience best. So when the first day of the workshop rolled around, I had no idea if or when he would call me up to the stage.
It didn’t take long. After the first break, Steve was talking about the principle of Power. I heard him say, “I’d actually like to bring my wife Erin up on stage to tell us a story of how she successfully used her Power to accomplish a goal.” That would be my Star Trek story. My heart was pounding as I walked from the back of the room to the stage. I had no idea what I was going to say, how I was going to start the story, or anything. Earlier that day, I asked Darren LaCroix, World Champion of Public Speaking, our friend, and the guy who was introducing Steve, if he would come up on stage with me so I could feel what it might be like if I was up there. I told him I was really nervous about speaking and asked his advice. He said, “You’re going to be nervous when you first get here. That’s okay. Once you get your first laugh you’ll know the audience is with you, you’ll feel their energy, and you won’t be nervous anymore.” I was doubtful but I absorbed the info and clung to it like a life preserver.
And so it was that I stepped on stage and began my story. My breathing betrayed my nervousness, and I’m sure I stumbled a bit, but Darren was right. As soon as I got my first laugh I relaxed. I felt the audience was with me, that they wanted me to succeed, and that they were engaged in my story. By the time I was done, which took maybe 7-8 minutes, I was actually enjoying myself. That’s something I wouldn’t have believed possible before. I left the stage, no longer afraid of being up there. I began to hope Steve would call me up again.
As it turns out, Steve called me up during the career section also. Then I did announcements daily from the stage. Easy and very similar to what I do as president of my club, so I already had that as a reference experience. On the third day we did indeed do much of the relationship segment together including some Q&A. I loved it. I wasn’t the least bit nervous. I was happy speaking on stage. The longest I was on stage at any one time was probably an hour or so. Interestingly, last year my Mastermind group and I were talking about putting together a one day workshop where each of us would do an hour presentation. I really resisted that. I wasn’t ready. I really didn’t think I could do it. Now I know I could. Why? Because I have a reference now. I’ve already been on stage for that long. Yes, it was with Steve by my side, but I’m sure I could do it alone too. I discovered that the key is to stop thinking about my personal issues and to concentrate on what I’m trying to convey to the audience. It’s about them, not me. My job is to share something that will benefit them. Thoughts of how I might look or come across disappear in light of what I’m trying to give to others.
When was the last time you pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone and created a new reference experience for yourself? What are you avoiding because you don’t think you’re ready? How could you get ready? What actions could you take today to make you ready for that challenge in the future? I had to join Toastmasters 3.5 years ago to be ready for what I did this past weekend. I’m a patient woman. I knew if I just kept showing up to Toastmasters, participating, and giving it my all, that I would eventually get better at public speaking. Now, I’m not just better at it, I like it.
Don’t let fear stop you from creating the life you want. Continue to create new reference experiences for yourself until you reach your goal. You can take baby steps all the way, or one giant leap if that’s comfortable for you. My next goal is to do a 1-hour presentation by myself. I’ll use all of my reference experiences to get there.
What is your goal and what reference experiences will you use to get you there?