I Know You Are But What Am I
I’m not a public speaker.
I'd like to say I can mirror someone that is good. Model myself for someone that is a master speaker. Have zero problem morphing into someone else. If you're a public speaker I wish to be you. And if you were a genie you would grant that wish. OR maybe it should be as simple as saying "You're rubber, I'm glue..."
But for me... it's just... not.
My hands shake. My mouth becomes a desert. My nerves get the best of me. It's hard to guess that I'm terrified because I present myself as super confident in the situation, but inside I'm a crumbling mess of a human. And when I go to talk I stumble, I say and do things that might look like a person with Tourettes.
So when a friend and former colleague asked me to speak at an event she was putting together I had all of the required apprehensions and associated fears.
Then, she told me it was for very important women in the industry of Virtual Reality. Just a little piss in my pants.
Then, she told me it was a Microsoft sponsored event. Happy for her. Shitting myself.
I didn’t want to look like an idiot. I didn’t want to disappoint her. I also didn’t know how the hell I would get through it.
I said yes, though, because I knew I had to do it… entirely because of the fear and the feelings surging through me.
My actions were pretty typical. I wrote a couple of versions of a talk. I felt they covered the territories of impact, insight, and inspiration pretty well. And for a week I rehearsed them. I recorded myself on my phone and listened to it for an entire day. I invited friends over to practice for them. I even went so far as to call friends who weren’t local to get their feedback.
I’ve been to a lot of talks, panels, conversations, events with speakers and the one thing that differentiates the good from the bad is that they are:
So of course I built this into something much bigger than I could even fathom handling. Because in my mind I am not a speaker... I will fuck this up. I was so stressed out about this that the night before I got snappy with a friend and came very close to crying.
And that friend reminded me of this idea, “The best speeches come from what you’re feeling in the moment. Let it go and do what feels right.”
I brought my speech because I wasn't comfortable without it... without the crutch of my “perfection” plan.
I walked into the room fifteen minutes before the event was supposed to start and there were people there. Not everyone but a good chunk of the attendees were there. Normally for events like this people make an appearance and leave. It's an obligation and not something to actually enjoy. I've been to a lot of these types of events.
But as I surveyed the room, these women were enjoying each other. They were building rapport, friendship, comradery that would remain far past the few hours we would be at a house in Beverly Hills.
My perfection plan stayed in my bag.
The first woman I spoke to at The Reality Experiment, to told me about her life; a recent immigrant from LA to SF with a burning desire to find her passion, creativity and overall what makes her tick. Every woman after that was just as awesome as the last.
There was zero small talk among everyone in the group. People were there in honesty, innovation, community and revelry... of each other. They were having a good time and I was in it with them.
When it came time for me to speak I found great pleasure in it. I was completely authentic. I spoke about what inspired me to start my business and how inspiring this group was to me. I told them that I hoped when they looked inside they saw what I felt from them.
I didn’t say everything I wanted... was far from perfect... maybe a little impactful.
But in doing this I learned a great lesson.
You can drop your pretenses. Perfection is in the presence and not the planning.
You get to have opportunities that other people don’t have, to talk to people you’ve never met before, to be in places you’ve never seen before. If you live authentically in the present and honor what you are feeling you’ll never go wrong.
I also learned… that I am a public speaker.