What if you fail on stage?

Today I gave a speech at my physical Toastmasters club.

[about a week ago…]

I go on Toastmasters website, click on Basecamp, pick my “Innovative Planning” Pathways curriculum, select project for level 3 which states the following purpose — “Become aware of his/her thoughts, feelings and responses on the audience as well as a two-week assignment on turning negative thoughts into positive”.

I immediately thought — “hmmm, how? I need to find situations that I tend to think negative about and feel a lot of weird stuff inside… but what?”

If you’re anything like me, these thoughts and feelings may seem familiar:

  • “I can’t do it”
  • “I’m not ready”
  • “I’m feeling anxious”
  • “I’m feeling nervous”

Do you notice a pattern of these in a specific situation in your life? Where does this normally happen?

FREAKING PUBLIC SPEAKING

To me, it’s a love and hate relationship still, but hopefully not for too long. Either way, I think and feel a lot when the opportunity appears and it gets closer to the event.

I then decided to take a step further and make it a bit more intense; — “What if I don’t prepare my speech at all? Completely wing it and see what happens? Will I freak out? What different sorts of thoughts and feelings will arise? Will I fail terribly and pass out on stage?!”

Well, that’s what the assignment is about. So I decided take up the challenge.

Isn’t it funny how much control we want in life? The tendency was to at least mentally think about my opening or closing, or some points I could bring up during my speech. It was hard! Apparently it’s harder not to prepare a speech than it is to prepare, rehearse and do it! There’s this innate need to control the situation whenever possible. Quite modestly, I can give decent speeches once I’m given a topic, enough time to prepare and practice. It became easier and easier as my time in Toastmasters went on and I was completing project after project. The challenge though, is standup on a stage with dozens of people for 5-7 minutes and speak. For some this might be a piece of cake, but for me is almost as bad as my own heart-attack.

As the day of my speech approaches, my mind keeps wanting to think about some ideas for my speech, even though I didn’t jot anything down. The need for control was intense, I wanted more certainty! But I insisted and kept my mind occupied with other subjects and concerns as much as possible.

The date and time finally arrived. I’m not going to lie, nervousness, anxiety, excitement, fear and much more was felt right before it was time, as well as countless well-known negative thoughts of “You’re going to fail”, “Everyone will see that you’re a fake speaker”, “You can only give prepared speeches”, “People will no longer want to connect with you”, “Not today, do another day” and much much more that I could write an entire journal on…

It’s finally time. The Toastmaster of The Day introduces me, I step up on stage and the result? Normal. Yes, just normal. It was surprisingly calming and peaceful up there. A feeling of comfort and surrendering poured over my body, I realized was OK. It’s OK to not know anything I was going to talk about, it’s OK to be nervous or having a lot of thoughts, it’s OK to not be always prepared, it’s OK to experiment and try something new, it’s OK to feel, it’s OK to fail.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it was my best speech with the most amazing subject. Though it was my best internal preparation and performance.

Where else would I be able to have a safe space where I can try these sorts of things out? To me, only at a Toastmasters club.