I was Not Alone on Stage
Eight months ago, the president of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS), sat down with me to ask how recovery from my heart attack was going. I have admired her since I first saw her give a key note many years before. She really cared about the progress with my health and I told her about my successes and challenges in the past year.
She asked me if I would consider giving a mini-speech on the main stage in Halifax at the national convention. I have been to several conventions and had wondered what it would be like to speak from that stage. Now I was being asked.
What would I talk about? Would my health be able to handle that type of pressure? She informed me the objective was to find five people across the country who would speak about why they believe in what they do and why they belong to CAPS. I said, “Yes, I would love to!”
It was eight months away…plenty of time to prepare. Isn’t it funny how something far into the future becomes less and less far into the future as time flies by?
I had only three minutes to present. What could I possibly say of substance in three minutes? I worked and reworked the speech. I learned that a good three minute speech is quite a challenge. And I was speaking in front of many of the best speakers in the country and some from around the world. This had to be my best!
The convention arrived and the night before I hit the stage I was requested to attend a dress rehearsal. I was escorted to my starting point behind the stage, listened to the booming voice introduce me, waited for the music to begin, counted to two and then entered onto the stage. Everything was precise.
I walked out to the spot on the floor where I was to stand, looked up, and was blinded by a purple light shining in my eyes. I have been on many stages and have had lights shone upon me but never have I been totally blinded.
As I stood there with everyone waiting for me to start speaking, I could only think of how daunting this was. I could not think of a single word of my speech. After searching my excited brain for some words and finding nothing, I said, “Sorry, I can’t remember my speech!”
“No problem,” the production coordinator said. She was very comforting and supporting. Perhaps she had seen this before. “Let’s do this again.” I went through the process again and it was better but after my short opening, I moved on the stage to my right and the audio-visual supervisor said, “Is he going to move on stage?” I stopped as they discussed the issue and when asked I said I definitely wanted to move. They all agreed that was okay but he needed to radio to his techs that I was moving on stage so they were ready with the lights.
By this time, I was unnerved to the point I said I was done practicing. I left the stage and went to my room to practice in solitude. Five times I tried to say the speech and every time I forgot a line or the flow. That was a little disconcerting. I was giving this speech the next morning!
I will write the conclusion to my experience in Halifax tomorrow. Just thinking about that night before my speech makes me a little anxious. Obviously I need some sleep!
John Hindle, The Contact Hitter