A friend proposed that I share my journey on becoming a professional public speaker. If she had told me a few months ago that I would be entertaining the idea of being a public speaker, I would have thought she had gone crazy!
The move towards the stage began the first week of August 2011. At a networking function, I was asked to give a 10 minute presentation on business marketing. After my speech, I received a generous round of applause and accolades on how useful the information was and how well I spoke. My dear friend Michelle Ketterman was so enthralled with my speaking abilities that she invited me to speak on the topic at her annual Home Inventory Professionals conference. I thought it was her way of being generous in providing me with opportunities but she was sincere. She believed I gave a great presentation and her audience would benefit from it.
I had only spoken one time prior to this. When I was a nuclear medicine technologist, an event coordinator asked me to give a continuing education class. I flunked. Miserably. The content was dry, and though I tried to add some humor, it was miserable. I spoke to fast and didn't feel I added any value. I thought I could do it because I had acted in a few plays as an adult. But I was never center stage, just supporting cast. I was never quite good enough to be in the spotlight. Ever.
And this history mentally hung on some 20 years later. Though Michelle had faith in me, I didn't. But one day changed that. I attended an all-day networking seminar. A dozen speakers spoke to a full room and only one impressed me. Perhaps I am a harsh judge, but after observing people who did not inspire, enthrall me, or teach me, I said to myself "hell, I can do better than that." And that's what I set out to do. It took an all-day seminar of listening to poor speakers to create an entire new mindset. The tuition I paid that day was worth every penny!
As Michelle's conference approached, I grew nervous, and I rehearsed while in the car, while dressing in front of the mirror, while eating lunch. I prepared visual aids for my speech and printed out my speech, double-spaced on paper. And the hour before I was to present, I was anxious, nervous, tapping my toes, breathing shallow.
And then I was there. In front of the audience. I began with a soft, quivering voice and trembling hands. Five minutes into it, I took a deep breath and proceeded to set the stage on fire. I used my visual cues, I gestured, my voice fluctuated appropriately. Yes, I goofed up but it didn't stop me. And, much to my surprise, the audience didn't realize it.
And then it was over. I did it! And they were clapping! As I looked into the audience, smiles beamed back and heads nodded in approval. After the speech, friends and strangers both commented on the value of my presentation and how well I spoke. Michelle declared "You knocked it out of the park!"
And that's how I felt. Like I had just hit a home run. Who knew several months later that this one experience would lead me to entertaining the thought of becoming a public speaker. Stay tuned for the next installment!
Alicia White is the CEO of Back of the Room Productions,
home of the Speakers Briefcase™, Authors Briefcase™, and The Speaklet™ and North America's
first Back of the Room Branding and Marketing Materials Provider. Copyright 2012.