So I Was Me And… I Failed At Public Speaking

So I was me and…

This phrase is a precursor to testaments of experiences where in which we react only in accordance to what our personality dictates.

In other words: you have no control over it, it’s just who you are.

A few weeks ago I stood up to do some public speaking. As an introvert, I’d rather stab myself with a sword while reciting the lyrics to “Call me, Maybe” until my last breath.

This was a pitch competition put on by my Alumni association. Writers conquering fears by speaking into microphones. This riveting evening of group therapy aimed to teach: not only do you have to write your story, but you have to sell it and yourself.

Nothing gets done in Hollywood without personality.

Valid point. Selling myself is not one of my strengths. I’m what you call a “listener.”

Sure my pitch was good on paper, but could I verbalize it?

In front of 50+ people (that’s over 100 eyeballs)?

Into a microphone?

Without any notes?

In 90 seconds or less?

I am honestly one of the slowest speaking people on the planet. I think carefully about my words before I say them. The timer really freaked me out. I spent my weekend memorizing and re-editing my pitch to get it down to the right timing, right jokes, and right delivery. Then I got up there …and I was me.

Comics call this bombing.

All at once, every feeling of stage fright I’ve ever experienced flooded me. From speech and drama class, to dance auditions and my first few teaching jobs all flashed before my eyes. My voice was shaking. I was shaking.

All I could think was, “Can they tell I’m shaking? The microphone is shaking. Can they see the shaking? They can tell I’m shaking. Awe, fuck, I’m shaking.”

I didn’t get all the way through my pitch, but I got the jest across and nailed at least one joke. I was hoping a trap door would open to save me from being the center of attention at some point, but it never happened.

When I was declared finished, I sat down next to my husband. He patted me on the knee and said, “you’re still here.” As in: alive.

On the way home I was me again and cried of embarrassment. I cried because I failed. I cried because at 32, I can’t speak for 90 seconds in front of a large group of people about something I love.

In my private daydreams, I give TEDtalks. I speak passionately on panels. And sometimes in my real-life fitness classes, I’ll get on my soapbox or test out jokes over the microphone. There is this amazing and mesmerizing public speaker inside me, dying to tap-dance her way out.

Unfortunately, my epic TEDtalk probably isn’t happening anytime soon. Still I tried. I got up there. I spoke. I failed. But I got up there.

So I was me and… that’s probably not the worst thing that could happen, because I’m also the type of person who will want to try again.

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