I have devoted a number of entries over the last couple of years on my fear of public speaking. I’ve had people offer me advice, sympathy and even empathy. And I am thankful for that, but at the end of the day, it still scares me.
Anyway, some of you know that I like to face my fears head on. I say to myself “screw that, you can do it!” and I do it. Pretty impressive, hey?
Last year I joined a Speakers Bank where people can request a speaker come to an event and talk about their disability and the obstacles we face. I didn’t hear much from the group and eventually thought the program wasn’t working out. Inside I was quite relieved and I forgot all about it.
That was last year. Two weeks ago the coordinator of the program got in touch with me and informed me that someone had seen my little video on the Speakers Bank website and they had liked what they had seen. A member of the Lions Club saw the video and thought it would be great to have me speak at one of their meetings. To learn more about the club, go to: http://www.lionsclubs.org.au/.
My brain went into a spin and while I couldn’t help but boast to whoever was willing to listen, inside I was freaking out and thinking how could I entertain and inform a whole group of strangers. I thought I had nothing interesting to share and I would freeze. All I wanted to do was curl up into a ball.
But Mum had a great suggestion. She suggested contacting our family friends who trains people in public speaking. She does other things, however this is one of her specialties. Plus she has helped me before and I knew that I needed someone to give me some direction and help me put all my material into some order because all I really had was an introduction and a whole lot of facts.
I remember when I was in my teens reading some facts about my condition. I remember reading a line that people mostly lived until the age of 30. So I wanted that to be my first line in my presentation. My friend and I worked out that if I was going to start off with something heavy it was important to finish off with something light. We put together a timeline, how long I would speak per topic and how I would allow a few minutes for questions at the end and finish with promoting a Yooralla event.
That was all fine and dandy at the time and I felt well prepared. However, that all went out the window on the day in question. Firstly, I gave the wrong address to the taxi driver. We ended up on the wrong street and he kept saying on the way that it didn’t feel right to him, that he couldn’t picture it in his mind and usually he can. That threw me in a spin and a wave of nausea took over. I hate being late. I hate making people wait. Thankfully the woman who asked for me rang to check where I was and she gave the driver the directions.
The Lions Club used to be all male members, however in the last few years women are now allowed to join. The age range seems to be 50s and over, but younger people are getting more involved. Their main goal is to help community organisations and disadvantaged groups. Every year they choose organisations they want to help and raise money throughout the year. But they also want to learn about other organisations and so they invite people to come in and talk about the work they do.
It’s also a way for people to socialise. And so when I walked in the people were chatting away while they tucked into dinner (bbq – my favourite!). They served me dinner and asked me a few questions and I asked them a few too. They were so warm and inviting and they put me at ease. They knew it was my first gig and they said that they just wanted to hear my story.
I never thought it was anything special, but when I got up and started talking – I started with a bad joke and went straight into my condition – they paid attention. I talked from the heart and so I was emotional. Sometimes showing your feelings helps engage the listeners. It worked. When I finished they wanted more and asked questions and even asked what was my next big adventure. I can share with you that it’s going toIsrael,New Yorkand LA and getting on the Ellen Degeneres show.
My story won them over and it made me feel great. I didn’t use notes and I looked people in the eye. I told them my story but I also told other peoples stories. I want people to know about the obstacles people with disabilities face.
If you want someone to speak at one of your events, please go to: http://www.speakersbank.org.au/.
(By the way, this piece is dedicated to GP. Hopefully he knows I mean him. I hope he had a great trip overseas!)