I read once where speaking in public was one of the five biggest fears in life.
I get it.
Just between us, I’m way more scared of a jet plane than a microphone.
I can remember the first time I spoke in public. I stood up in first grade and gave a speech on Columbus and the new world and sailing the ocean blue and the Nina and the Pinta and the Santa Maria. And when I finished? I was ready for more.
Give me an audience. Give me a podium. Give me a stage and a tube of red lipstick and I’m ready.
Always. Never failing. Ever ready.
Until I wasn’t.
Until amazing looked a million miles away.
It happened in front of a full house.
I was speaking to a group of ladies at a retreat about how to add more joy to your life.
I had my points.
I had my stories.
I had my moments when I paused for emphasis and looked into the eyes of the crowd and slowly delivered my awe-inspiring words of wisdom in a voice that was so mesmerizing it would make you shiver.
At the risk of stating the obvious—the speech was incredible.
Everyone was laughing and giggling and I was waving my hands and then occasionally lifting one in the air and wiggling my fingers to emphasize a point.
I had been speaking for about 20 minutes and I had one final point to make.
The best one.
The one that wrapped up the message in a bow and brought the entire talk together.
The one that would stand up and be counted and take names and inspire future generations to celebrate the joy for years to come.
Boldly, I stepped out from behind the podium.
Confidently, I stood there as I paused for dramatic emphasis.
I smiled a smile of encouragement and raised my hands and opened my mouth…and…and…and…
My mind went blank.
Frantically, I searched for the point. What came next? What was the final, amazing, incredible, awesome, generation inspiring final point of this speech.
You got this KariAnne, I said. Get it together.
I cleared my throat and raised my hands and tried again.
I had nothing.
NOT A SINGLE, SOLITARY THOUGHT IN MY ENTIRE BRAIN.
Everyone stared at me expectantly.
Waiting for the brilliant pearls of wisdom that were just a moment away.
They stared at me.
I stared back at them.
As the silence stretched out longer, I could see people glancing at each other. Wondering if I was going to continue. Wondering what was next.
It felt like an hour passed.
And then, from the middle of my blank brain, I thought of something. Something I’d said before. Something that might work. I frantically grasped at that phrase that leapt into my consciousness with all the desperation of a passenger on a sinking ship.
I raised my hands and loudly blurted out “YOU ARE ALL AMAZING.”
Then I smiled, gathered up my blank brain, gave an awkward smile, nodded, grabbed my papers and hurried off the stage.
The audience sat in stunned silence and then gave a smattering of confused-yet-trying-to-be-supportive applause.
It wasn’t my finest hour.
At that moment I wasn’t amazing.
Not even so close.
All that amazing looked a million miles away.
But in that brief, terrifyingly-awkward-brain-blanking minute on stage, I discovered a few things.
Never walk away from your notes before you are finished a speech.
Have a story ready in case of emergencies.
Ask an audience a question until you can get back on track.
And flying? After that speech? It didn’t look so scary anymore. 🙂
PS This post was brought to you by my fall pumpkins. They are here for moral support.