In my friend Lara’s book, she writes about her first – and worst – public speaking experience. She was invited to keynote but… they invited the wrong person, and she realized that as they gave an unrecognizable introduction – just before she walked on stage.
I don’t have a story quite that bad, but I do have one that enough time has passed that I can laugh about it.
Last year I was set to give a talk at a great event, that I was really excited to attend… and I was really sick. I’ll be forever grateful to the sympathetic organizer and the person who switch slots with me and gave me an extra day.
I timed taking flu meds, so that I could do my best impression of a functioning human on stage. It was going OK, but in the middle of the talk, I played this video. The proper thing to do when playing a video is to turn and watch it, too. When I was speaking, the adreneline was keeping me upright. But a break… I just couldn’t stand up anymore.
I was behind a podium, and it occurred to me that I could hide… inside it. I gracefully (please let me believe that) lowered myself down to my knees and collapsed into the shelf on the podium. Things seemed vastly better closer to horizontal. I rested my head on the cool surface and sighed with relief. Then I realized I would have to stand up again.
When the video ended, there was this silence, as people wondered where I was. I stood up behind the podium, like that was a totally normal thing to do, and finished my talk.