The first time I had to speak in public was in high school. Public speaking was a required class, and I had to deliver a 5-minute speech. I talk fast to start with, so the result was that I was so nervous that I raced through the speech at warp speed. 5 minute speech = 1 minute. I just had to get away from all those people staring at me as fast as possible.
When I was an adult, though, I decided that I needed to get better at speaking, so I joined a Toastmasters club. In Toastmasters the focus is on the positive and improvement, rather than simply throwing someone on stage as a requirement.
I liked creating the speeches because it’s building stories in a verbal form, or creating a verbal essay. But despite all the speeches I gave, I still could not overcome how nervous I got. I often found myself having to add more to a speech because I talked too fast and was still waiting for the green card to go up.
Then the worst thing happened.
I was doing the tech support at a conference. No speaking. But the room was set up so that I was in front of all the attendees. Big Boss comes out to present awards. Zoom. I head for the sidelines to wait.
Hit the carpet. The Adams Feet do their thing. Ankle turns.
In front of 100 people. Collective gasp. No one laughed.
I bounced back up and went to the furthest chair to sit down. Big Boss continues with awards. My boss comes over to see if I’m all right. A few people checked in with me later on, and the Big Boss was a little concerned that I might fall down again (entirely possible, given the Adams Feet) and spent the day telling me, “Don’t fall.”
But the worst had happened, and I survived it. Since then, I gave a speech at a writer’s conference that was well received, and I wasn’t nervous. Still talked too fast, but it wasn’t at warp speed.
What’s your worst public speaking experience?