The lesson I learned from freezing on stage
After weeks of writing, memorization and practice, my TEDx talk felt as ready as it would ever be. It knew the words by heart, and had given the talk dozens of times with no script. As I got ready to set foot on stage at the dress rehearsal on Friday, I was comforted by the classic advice to nervous speakers everywhere, “Once you say your first line, you’ll be all set.”
That was wrong.
I started off strong, reciting my lines and telling my stories until half way through the talk I froze. I forgot how the story ended. Well, I kind of forgot how the story ended. Mostly I was just panicked that everyone was watching me stand on stage and forget my talk. That sent my mind into a loop as I continued to draw a blank. Eventually, after the audience clapped for encouragement, I just started saying random words, and got back on my feet, leaving out a meaningful conclusion to my story.
Luckily this was just a dress rehearsal and the audience members were ten of the other speakers, not a full crowd. Phew. The first piece of feedback I received: “Have more fun.” The second: “smile more.”
No one mentioned the freeze up. Later people told me that it happens to everyone. Even the most seasoned speakers. But as I went home that night and thought about the big talk the next morning, I couldn’t help but remember that terrible feeling of standing there frozen on stage.
On Saturday morning, I thought about my goal for the talk, and set the intention to have more fun and smile. Hopefully the words would follow.
When it was my turn on the red circle of the TEDx stage, I stepped up and smiled. Looking out to see my family and a welcoming crowd. And in that moment, I gave my talk. I absorbed the opportunity and felt connected with the audience. When I walked off the stage I felt a giant weight off my shoulders as I unleashed an idea that I hope will resonate with many others.
Here’s the video recording:
Giving a TEDx talk was one of the scariest and most humbling experiences I’ve ever had. After dozens of hours of preparation, and weeks of stress, I walked away from it all with an important lesson: Don’t defeat yourself.
I had my whole talk memorized. I knew it cold. But I froze in the rehearsal because I let my nerves take over. I did everything right, except at the last moment, I was grasping for control, when all I needed to do was let the words flow.
On the day of the actual talk, I smiled, I appreciated the moment and got out of my own way. It went smoothly, just like it should when you’ve been practicing every day for weeks.
So often, we’re standing in the way of our own progress. We’re blocking ourselves with self-judgment, with fear, with nervousness. They’re all normal feelings. They are trying to keep you safe. But you have to let those things go. They’re defeating you from releasing your best work. Work that the world needs to see.
You have magic inside you and it’s time to let it out.