Recently, I gave my first non-Zoom in-person talk in over three years.
I’d consider myself an experienced speaker. I’ve hosted and presented live events for audiences of between 5 people and 50,000 people. I’m confident in my ability to talk to people I don’t know so I can help them to understand the things I do know. I can keep people engaged over relatively long periods and make sure that when they leave the event, they say, “well, that was fun!”
In other words, I’m pretty good at this public speaking stuff.
Until recently, when I wasn’t.
I’d been asked a few months ago to be a guest speaker at a small business conference in the UK. The event organiser (Chris) was known for putting on larger conferences, and the roster of people he’d had guest speak for him in the past was insane. Lewis Howes, Amy Porterfield, Pat Flynn, Hal Elrod, Todd Herman, Gary Vaynerchuk, Phil Jones…all TITANS in their respective coaching fields and recognised as some of the most influential speakers in the world.
So when Chris emailed me asking if I’d be available to speak based on my role at Book Yourself Solid – I didn’t think about it; I immediately said, “HELL YEAH.”
I chose a section of Book Yourself Solid called “The Six Keys to Connection” and decided to give a talk on that.
The Six Keys is a part of the Book Yourself Solid system that’s often overlooked as it seems basic but provides the foundation strategies EVERY business needs to get more clients.
Because the Six Keys strategy is outlined in the book as a “set” system, it seemed best to refer directly to how it had been written by Michael Port, the author. So I pulled the sections from the book, tied them together with a couple of anecdotes, and created the presentation slides.
I know Book Yourself Solid well, so I read through the talk I’d put together six or seven times to ensure it would deliver in terms of learning content. After that, I was sure it hit the nail on the head.
It’s important to note that I didn’t spend any time practicing the talk out loud simply because I’d done these things hundreds of times before.
The night before, Lindsey – my magical genie, who has very recently come on board the Coach Kym train as my right hand to assist me and make sure I don’t drop the ball on anything I’m doing – offered herself up as a practice audience for me to rehearse my talk out loud. So we jumped on Zoom, and I began.
I’d pulled a lot of content from the book to teach it just as it had been written and noticed myself stuttering and stumbling while relaying the information. My clear and confident on-stage persona just wasn’t home that evening, and as I struggled through giving my performance to Lindsey, I couldn’t understand why.
When I finally finished, Lindsey had taken some brilliant notes and gave me fabulous feedback.
We both agreed that maybe it was Michael Port’s phrasing and sentence structures that I was finding difficult to say out loud because they weren’t phrased and structured as I might have said them. But I also thought if I read over it enough before the event, I could pull off Michael’s words as though they were my own.
Also, Lindsey suggested taking an iPad with me so I’d have my notes available to lean on if I needed them. This also meant I could worry less about getting everything out in the correct order. Great call.
Fast forward to the following day
After having 2.5 hours of sleep due to a very unusual nerves-filled night, I drove to the venue.
It was a small conference setting with everything I needed to get this right.
Chris is calm and laid back but also “…REALLY excited to have you here speaking, I’ve been reading so much about your work and achievements, and I know the attendees are going to LOVE what you’ve prepared for them.”
I’m on just after the first break.
Chris walks out on stage to introduce me. He gives me the most epic introduction I’ve ever had. But also focuses my introduction around me as a dancer and Nike athlete. I didn’t reference these moments of my life in my talk as I wanted to focus on my Book Yourself Solid position as a jumping-off point for why I was in front of the audience. So while there’s plenty I can pull from in terms of my dance and athlete experience, I didn’t feel it was required today.
I walked out on stage. The intro I had planned and rehearsed for myself in the car that morning no longer seemed to fit. I found myself apologising for not being in front of them as a Nike athlete (and not in a cool, affable way either), and I bumbled about attempting to introduce myself as a Book Yourself Solid management team member. Searching for the right words. Second guessing everything I said. This ISN’T how I do things, and, worse still, this set the tone for the next 45 minutes of carnage.
My mind went blank. I stuttered over everything. Read directly from my notes on strategies I knew like the back of my hand. I got the order of things wrong. If you’d asked me my name at that point, I don’t think I could have answered you. I wished the ground might swallow me whole.
The longer I spent on stage, the more I thought about how I was royally screwing up an opportunity to springboard into the high-level professional speaker circuit. That didn’t help, either.
When I finally got off stage, it was like what had just happened was a weird dream. I really needed it to be a weird dream. It wasn’t.
I sat at the back of the room, shell-shocked.
Chris immediately came over to congratulate me on a brilliant talk. It wasn’t brilliant, I KNOW brilliant, and that wasn’t it. Maybe he was on autopilot.
During the lunch break that followed shortly after, I attempted to hide in a corner. Members of the audience came to me to thank me for such a helpful and insightful talk about remembering that the best growth strategy is returning to your business foundations.
They’d never heard me speak before, so they had no idea what “live audience Coach Kym” would usually bring to the party. But it seemed they got all the information I was trying to communicate, so it’s possible that it wasn’t a total shambles. But by my standards, this was a fall from grace of epic proportions.
Since that event, I’ve had a few decent nights’ sleep and time to reflect on everything that happened.
So here’s what I know now that I didn’t know before this catastrophe:
Attempting to give a talk precisely as written by the author (especially when it’s on something I know well) is a terrible idea for me.
I’m not an actor. I shouldn’t ever deliver something that I didn’t write. What I should have done from the get-go was re-written the Six Keys in the usual kick-ass Coach Kym styleee.
This all comes back to remembering who you are, why you do what you do, and what needs to be in place to do what you do to the best of your ability. Yesterday, and in the weeks lead-up to this event, I forgot that entirely. The exciting “opportunity” to be there clouded my brilliance.
So, my takeaways look a little like as follows:
- Never forget – not even for a moment – who you are, why you do what you do, and what you need to do the thing you do at your best.
- If the opportunity requires you to be someone else, unless you’re a professional actor, it’s not the opportunity for you.
- Extra rehearsals NEVER hurt. No matter how confident you think you are in doing the thing.
P.S. – On a brighter note, I discovered after my shocker of a performance that the event wasn’t being filmed. There are no physical records of this ever happening. Unfortunately, it did happen. But the only people who know that are me, the small audience in the room that day, and now – you 😅