This week, on Tuesday to be exact, what appears to be most peoples worst nightmare happened to become real. It became my reality. The most annoying thing is that I didn't even see it coming. Totally unexpected. It didn't cross my mind once as a possibility. Which is why it probably did happen.
Beware; if you're ready to feel embarrassed and anxious on my behalf you can continue reading, if you're not in the mood for those kinds of feelings simply leave my site or scroll further down to the next post.
I really just write this piece because writing it all out works therapeutic to me, and I also belive that some people might find it helpful to know that the worst of the worst can happen to anyone. And knowing that someone that usually is super comfortable around all kinds of people flunked so completely might be relieving to think of when it's your turn on stage.
Well, let's get into it.
A month ago my boss asked me to perform a two minute pitch at an event where all the co-working spaces in Oslo was supposed to gather to tell each other what we're all doing so that we can get to know one another. It was arranged by Oslo Business Region at Ingensteds. (Btw for the past month I've been working at a super nice co-working space in the midst of Oslo Centrum which recently opened. Its called Spaces and it's a global concept with 60 locations all over the world. I love it. I love the people and I love the place)
Fine I sad, and was thinking that it was a month until that event and that for sure I would manage to toughen up until then (interestingly enough I read at Tim Urbans blog wait but why the number one fear people have is public speaking, and then death comes second. ) What she didn't know was that this would be the first time I would ever be on stage talking in front of 250 people. And I wasn't sure how to deal with it. And most importantly; could I deal with it? I've been speaking for smaller crowds which I kind of enjoy (while speaking about something I am really passionate about) but this was by far my first big experience. And I'd never ever pitched Spaces before. How the fuck could I do this? I put it all away in my head, postponing that this was even going to happen, until a few days before the happening.
Even when I wrote my script I actually didn't feel nervous or anything and was pretty sure I was gonna do all fine. Sadly enough I didn't worry at all.
I love talking in front of people, or rightly put; I've always been dreaming of being a public speaker, because I know that once I break the fear barrier I'm gonna love it. I would even love to sing in front of people, If someone just taught me to sing properly.. of course..
Anyhow...What the fuck was I supposed to say? I've been working at Spaces for 1,5 months and only part time, so in total not even for a month. My boss and one other girl pitches
the space every day with potential new clients.. Now why ME? Of course I was flattered bc of her belief in me and I couldn't be more grateful.. But I really think I should be getting some help here. But sure, I didn't dare asking for that either.. Cause I was sure I was going to nail it anyhow even though being pretty unsure about how to communicate the whole concept from beginning with. It's a huge international company with strict policies on everything, so I did not want to screw it up.. perhaps that also put a real pressure on me...
Well you might already be bored off by reading at this point so maybe I should jump to the 40 minutes before I was about to enter the stage.
Before arriving I felt pretty content. I knew the script by heart. Even though the day before I had to rewrite it all because my boss had lots to say on what to say.. (I for sure wish she had given me these notes earlier, but oh well). And that 6pm the day before I open my email and figured out that I was to do everything in english as well? WHAT THE FUCK? And indeed the whole script didn't feel natural to me to say.. That might be one of the reason it all got messed up as well...
So when I entered venue I realised it was a large room filled with loads of people I saw this enormous stage. With huge lights pointed on it.. WTF? Oh man.. not prepared for this.. Not mentally prepared for this environment at all.
When the whole pitching process began and one by one entered the stage I slightly started trembling and it escalated.. Quickly.. I felt my palms getting all sweaty... Damn it.. They were all such great speakers all the people talking before me. Their english were excellent and they looked so calm and happy... What the heck is wrong with me?
The audience was mainly filled with people I know from the startup community, people whom I have a well known reputation with and am very well liked and respected. So why so anxious? This should be an easy crowd? Or was it because this was my friends and potential colleagues that I became this tense? Perhaps it would have been easier if there were really nothing to lose. And.. Why should I lose something anyways?
"Next up... Yrja from SPACES!"
Shoot... Me... I managed to climb on stage and started opening my mouth, a few words came out.. But then. I realised that the lights were far to bright and I couldn't see anyone in the crowd.. and... In an instant.. My head turned black. I blanked out. I. Blanked. Out. On. Stage. Wtf? All out of nowhere my body didn't respond and my mental wellbeing got completely out of place. Seriously, I couldn't get a word out. And then I realised fuck I only have like 1 minute left on this stage, there is not even a spare second to be used to calm myself down.
Feverishly I scouted for familiar faces in the crowd, anyone there to calm me down??? No one. Not one single person could I see. It was way too dark. And I had no notes and no slides. Nothing that could pull me back to the present moment and make me deliver. I was doomed.
All I wanted was to pass out... But that I couldn't do either. That would just look way too weird and even below my comfort zone.. I'd rather run of as quickly as possible after saying at least something.
Then, desperately I managed to find some words to squeeze out "I'm a bit nervous..." And then.. I stood there for a bit longer before someone said "wooohooo" And then everyone started clapping. And I mean, I REAL roundup applause. The audience couldn't scream and clap enough. They all wished me well and I guess they were all filled with the same anxiousness as me... Poor people :P
Well, all PR is good PR? Isn't it so? At least I made an impression I guess as humans remember better when feelings are attached, and especially negative ones :P
Literally this was the most awkward moment in a long time. So, so annoying... Blanking out was far out of my imagination so I was not prepared. Shame on me. It was basically my fault. If I had just not pre-visualised all possible outcomes in such a situation I would be at least as cleaver as to bring a few notes to get me back on track. Too foolish really.
«When you said you were nervous it didn't make sense to me cause you seemed like you had full control up there and enjoyed it» people said to me afterwords... what went wrong? Oh well, lets not dwell with it no more but I'm pretty sure this happened to me because of the teachings coming with it and because of my ignorance and dumbness of not being focused enough and taking the task seriously.
You know what, the weirdest thing of it all was that I actually saw a movie the night before where someone ended up blanking out on stage but luckily the main person in the movie was a time traveler so he could go back in time and fix it.. It might have affected my sub consciousness. Then again, I think it was a good thing it happened to me and not another person. I'm not dealing with things so seriously and my feelings related to it will disappear in not to long.
But if I could stimulate my neurones to a point where I could erase this memory from my head and everyone elses head I would do It right away. Wouldn't I? The best would be if I could simply just erase it from all the people watching's head. Or go back in time and do it all over again. Because than I could get the teachings that came out of it even though living with the flashes of visuals and feelings from the accidents will continue to run into me pretty strongly and often for the next weeks and months perhaps and even for years it will stay there. Yikes, I messed up my inner life. Well, I think I can deal with it. I'll just pretend no one were actually watching me fail.
And after all, I'd rather see this happening than having anyone in my family or close friends get ill.
So, whats the whole gift about this event? As usual when weird things happen, the instruction that comes out of it. So what are they?
- Always bring slides, OR notes, especially always notes in your hand if you've got nothing else.
- You rock no matter what
- If you loose, it breath and take your time and just say SOMETHING.
I'm glad it happened to me as Im not a person who seldom get bothered by things happening, what people think of me etc... Even though some random visuals flash through my head every now and then I'm sure that if I was an insecure person it would be soooo much worse. So I spared y'all out there. Took one for the team...........
And damn what a story! Finally I have a relatable funny story to tell in company with others. Can't wait to shout it out on me and a friends new podcast that will be launching in January. #excited
All though I kinda lost the public speaking game this time. To me, it might have (just to pacify myself to the fullest) A win the hard difficult way?
What a way to put an ending to 2017!?
Cheers to fresh beginnings in 2018.
And good luck to you next time you will be speaking!
Lets to this! 2018, bring me more of public speaking gigs, please!