I am amazed that DisruptHR was a full three weeks ago. You might be wondering where have I been??? Well, directly after DisruptHR, I spent a week back home in NY visiting family and friends, shuffling from place to place, without any time to write about the amazing experience that was DisruptHR. The event was incredible and I’m still on fire three weeks later, but before I go into it, let me give you an inside look into the night before/day of preparation that I did and what was going through my mind at the time.
At this point I feel like I have prepped for so many hours that I just don't feel up for another walk through, but I’m also stressing about if I've prepped enough. 300 people is a lot of people more then I've ever spoken in front of before and I don't want to royally mess up. I also wanted to feel like I prepared enough so that the audience will leave feeling like they learned something after my talk. Had I done enough? I did a few practice runs with co-workers yesterday and was left feeling like I came away with great suggestions on how to improve my 5 minutes of fame; however, I was completely overwhelmed with all the things I had to remember.
One thing I learned was that I was walking around in this weird zig zaggy pattern that left one co-worker absolutely dizzy. She gave me some great advice which was to plant my feet and look directly at the audience, say all the words for the slide, take a breath and move to a different position; rinse and repeat. This seems so incredible simply, but when you are also trying to remember the lines of your slides knowing that in 20 seconds the slide will advance whether you are ready or not, it’s a lot more difficult then it appears. I have literally facilitated and spent hundreds of hours up in front of a classroom (at the corporate level and in the Bronx as a high school English teacher) and this 5 minute speech was challenging in so many ways.
Another co-worker reminded me to SMILE, I’ve always thought of myself as such a serious person (something I’ve been told a lot), but a smile is an instant connection to the audience. Again, this is not rocket science, but I literally had to remember my lines and remind myself to smile at the same time which was concerning.
I went back and forth wondering if I should I practice one more time or just wing it at this point. Because I felt like I had so many suggestions from my practice with different people, I wanted to run though one more time, just me in a room by myself. I did this about four hours before the event and I just needed to feel reassured and confident again. Throughout all of my practice I either felt like I really Nailed It! Or that I'd blubber through the whole thing and walk off the stage feeling dejected - there was never a middle ground
Once I got to 1871, heard the music playing and saw the volunteers setting up, I had to pause a second and smile. I could not believe that I had “made it” to the big stage. Just three years prior, I started as a DisruptHR volunteer, dreaming that maybe one day I’d have something important enough to say up there, but doubting I’d every get up on stage. I was just so happy to volunteer and be around such amazing people working to make change in the world. To say I was grateful is an understatement, some dreams really do come true.
DisruptHR is always the hottest ticket in town, as a volunteer we routinely have to turn people away as tickets are sold out and we couldn’t afford to be a fire hazard. About 30 minutes before the event, we had the lovely Erin Dielh from Improve it! take all 10 speakers through a few exercises to have us get the jitters out and it really did do the trick, I felt some (not all) of my anxiety leave my body as I was putting my left foot in and my left foot out.
As we got closer to curtain call, I noticed that some of the speakers started practicing, editing scripts and even getting on the stage to get a sense of how it would feel. I decided not to follow suit, I figured I knew my lines by now and a few extra rounds on stage wouldn't help much especially since the crowd was starting to descend.
As the first speaker got up my legs felt completely numb, I remembered to breath and tried to stay present. All the other speakers brought such amazing ideas to the forefront that I didn't actually want to miss any of their talks so I made a concerted effort to breath and listen and that calmed me down...staying in a learner'rs mindset has always been a go-to for me as a way to work through anxiety.
Once it was my turn to get on stage I was ready. I can't say I remember much, I know I did my lines, looked at the audience and smiled, but I didn't remember to say everything I wanted. One slide popped up that was missing a few of the visuals, but I know I just rolled with it. Once my 5 minutes was up I smiled and walked off the stage feeling utterly elated. Stephanie Ryter who spoke before me whispered "You Nailed It" and believe me I really felt like I did.
In my next post, I'll share the video of my speech and I'll do a tear down of the things I think went well and what I wished I'd done differently.