The organization I work for has a couple hundred staff plus children and at times fifty or so students. They gather on Sunday evenings for a formal meeting. My wife and I had just returned from a trip to Thailand with two other girls, and we were asked to give a debriefing of our trip. Now, my job IS public speaking – I am a teacher. I am quite capable of impromptu one hour lectures, and I am generally efficient and comfortable doing so. This night I was too confident. We played a video for them, and then I had a brief two to five minute speech to make. It was all worked out in my head until the video stopped, and I looked out into the bright lights and three hundred staring faces. It had to be one of the more populated meetings. My mind went blank. I rattled off a powerful line about the movie and went blank again. I tried another of my planned points. This got me through a stuttering twenty seconds. My mind went blank. I had nothing else to pull from. After staring at the audience, saying, “um” five times, and laughing I turned to my teammates for help. They all shook their heads. They looked more nervous than me. I looked back at the audience and hit them with ten more “um”s and laughs. It felt like this went on for five minutes, but I think it was only two or three. Then I managed to say one last enthusiastic sentence and encourage people to go to Thailand. I walked off the stage trying not to look at anybody. My wife held my hand. That was nice, but it didn’t make it go away. As I write this, I’m actually getting nervous again.
Micah the Admin