Last night, I slept like a baby. It was great, especially since I didn’t sleep nearly as well for the two nights prior. I had been anxious. I had been nervous. I made my debut as a public speaker last night, and for the previous two nights, my mind kept wandering into negative places. I was excited, certainly, but that’s not where my mind goes as I’m trying to drift off to slumberland. My mind makes a beeline to: what if you can’t remember anything and you stutter and stammer and what if people get up and leave midway through and what if nobody shows up and what if you accidentally drop your notes in an industrial paper shredder seconds before you’re supposed to start and what if what if WHAT IF!
Not all my fears are rational, but that didn’t stop me from thinking about them!
Last night’s sleep, however, was virtually thought-free. It was restful. It was wonderful. And that’s because my little speaking engagement happened last night. It’s over. I am now a motivational speaker!
If this happens to be your first visit to my blog, than 1) Welcome! and 2) You missed my seemingly-nonstop plugging of my first speaking gig. It took place at the Whole Foods in Porter Ranch, and, if I may toot toot toot my own horn, it was a success! Here I am in action:
Joyce, the Marketing Supervisor for Whole Foods Porter Ranch, and I had started talking about this event a few months ago, but I didn’t start writing my speech (which was supposed to be 15-20 minutes) until I was in Michigan a few weeks ago. At the beginning, there was a lot of distractions. After a couple not-very-productive evenings (thank you Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), I finally put my laptop away and pulled out paper and a pen to tackle it longhand. I left my folks’ house with a complete bulleted outline, and, on the plane back to California, I fleshed out most of the speech on my computer. I spent the next few days finishing it, then editing, rewriting, and tweaking, and then I started practicing it out loud.
On Monday, I invited Tavi (you know Tavi) over for a dry run with an audience. I spent most of Tuesday working further on the speech. I went back through it, paragraph by paragraph, and shortened everything to bullet points and keywords. I didn’t want to feel tethered to a script, and I wanted my talk to appear more conversational and personal. I ran it a few more times, using only my bulleted note cards, and by Wednesday morning, I felt very comfortable, and very prepared.
The event was at 7pm. I wanted to be there early, so Tavi came with me and we got to Whole Foods at 6pm. The event was held in the cafe part of Whole Foods, at the front of the store, right inside the entrance. Joyce was working with a couple other Whole Foods folks to set up the tech stuff: a projector and screen, some speakers, the microphone. We tested the microphone a bunch of times to determine optimal speaker placement. Joyce distributed some materials on every seat, so when people showed up, they got some info on Whole Foods and a box of coconut water. I added my new business cards, so everyone got one of those, too:
Soon, people started filing in. It was a great mix of friends that had come out to support me and new faces. It took a good 15 or 20 minutes for people to file in and get seated. I had a hunch that I would get most nervous during that time, but really, that time just flew by, and soon Joyce was welcoming everyone and introducing me. Before I knew it, I was standing in front of the crowd. All eyes were on me.
I had a plan for this moment: I would pick a spot on the wall just behind everyone, and focus on that. I would rely on my index cards as much as I needed to. I would find a way to get through it.
When I finally started to speak, though, I found myself much more comfortable than I was anticipating. I suppose that’s not a huge surprise as I look back on it, because I was talking about my own story and life, but in the moment, it was a quite the welcome revelation. I quickly dropped my plan to address the back wall, and found myself trying to make as much eye contact with as many people as possible. I didn’t want to just tell my story, I wanted to engage with the crowd, and connect with them. There were times that I needed to glance at my cards and get my bearings, but often times I found myself not needing them at all.
Here are a couple more action shots, all taken by my friend Robyn, who I roped into being official photographer about 5 minutes before showtime:
I spoke for over 20 minutes, and, quite honestly, it’s all a blur now. I’m pretty sure I hit all the topics that I wanted to. My talk was basically my story with weight, fit within a motivational framework. I talked about a lot of the stuff that I’ve talked about on this blog: my life before this weight loss adventure, my life now, what I struggle with, what I’ve learned, what anyone can do to start on a new path towards health, and what anyone can do when you start to stumble on that path.
There was a great round of applause when I was done, and we opened up the floor for questions. It had occurred to me (over and over and over again) that there might not be any questions at all, but there were about a dozen, and they were great. I hope I had some great answers for them, too!
After the Q&A, Joyce and I raffled off a door prize: a bag full of groceries and a $25 Whole Foods gift card, and my friend Mat (you know him, too) ended up winning. Woo-hoo groceries!
Here’s me and Joyce, in front of the poster she designed:
As soon as the evening ended, I felt a whole sense of relief. It’s over. I did it! And people really seemed to have a nice time! There were a LOT of really wonderful compliments that come my way, and I definitely got the feeling that the folks in attendance were able to take something away, and that was the whole point.
It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces in the crowd, too. A big group of my friends had come out, from all over the city, and it meant a lot to me that they braved rush hour traffic to get to the other side of town to hear me talk about something I tell them about all the freakin’ time.
Now, nearly 24 hours later, a new thought keeps popping up over and over again in my head: I can’t wait to do it again! So… who needs a motivational speaker?
Keep it up, David!