photo credit : Armosa Studios for WDS.
I did something interesting when I started working on this speech.
I wrote it all out. Blog post style. It's 3778 words and lives in a google doc. I would walk to the grocery store and speak into my iPhone headphone microphone, recording my ideas in the AudioMemos app. And then I would get home and listen to them and transcribe them into text. And then I would edit the text into something like what I would share here on the blog.
When my mom came to town in the middle of June, I read through the speech for the first time in front of someone with a larger vocabulary than my one-year-old, and we realized something catastrophic - it was well written. But good writing DOES NOT always translate into great speaking.
(Insert sad trombone sound.)
It was too wordy. Too many adjectives. Too many thoughts. Too many specific, HIT THIS SENTENCE EXACTLY THIS WAY OR THE WHOLE SHIP WILL GO DOWN phrases.
It was a start, yes, but sort of a rough draft of a start. I debated just getting up there and sharing on screen a link to the google doc. And then standing still as people read through it on their phones. I'd wait until everyone had finished, bow a few times and then march off stage.
(Not my best idea ever.)
I recorded a short podcast episode (episode 014b) a few days later. I listened to the playback on that one which is something that I rarely do. I had made no notes for that episode. I just started talking. While I didn't hit all the things I wanted to hit, the main point got through because I TALKED IT OUT. When you speak and are trying to convey a message you simplify and you assume that people can't go back and "re-read" so you repeat yourself a bit more, generally in a GOOD way. You make your point stronger by solid repetition.
I listened to myself on the podcast and I felt like that girl sounded confident. She was far from flawless, but she was comfortable with who she was and what she was saying. She believed her words.
photo credit : Armosa Studios for WDS.
I realized that I believed my words. My WDS speech is MY story. It's not a combination of facts or figures, it's just my life and work, organized a bit for clarity. To be truly authentic and effective, I had to start talking, not just reading.
From June 22nd until July 14, I said my speech at least once I day. I stopped reading it immediately and I started just saying it. Over and over and over. (Fun fact, Paul did not hear the speech once until I gave it on stage.) Sometimes I would say something so perfect that I wanted to write it down. I wanted to memorize the exact phrasing, but I couldn't do that (except for the ending - that HAD to be delivered perfectly). I just had to hope that in the live show the right phrasing came out.
I said it so many times that bits of it became like muscle memory. Some of it is verbatim from what I wrote originally because it became like tying your shoes. You don't think about trying your shoes, you just do it, the exact same way every time. But some of it was said totally new because every single run-through that I had was slightly different.
It was imperative, I thought, that I got an early laugh. Laughter is my love language in that I LOVE to make people laugh. I wanted to do that. I wanted to get these people on my team and my method in any situation is to get the laugh. Not in a cheap way (I wasn't going to wear a clown nose) but in a way that made them realize, "this girl, who three minutes ago I was sure I had nothing in common with, is aware that humor wins."
From the beginning (like day one), I scripted a joke about Chris not being my average reader. I picked the most randomly "girly" project - nail polish marbling - because of the context and because it's a graphically interesting photo. I had another joke shortly after about what people think when you tell them the title of the conference.
And then throughout the day on Saturday, I collected jokes - relying heavily on AJ Jacobs' brilliant talk about how we are all related. I watched other speakers and paid attention to how they delivered the funny. The bad news about going on day two is you cannot relax, but the good news is that you have an entire DAY of shared experience to pull from. It's like getting a cheat sheet, but paying for the cheat sheet in buckets of sweat and nausea.
Those last minute jokes, obviously, were not rehearsed. But humor is my default. It's easier for me to insert the joke than almost anything else because it's my go-to ice breaker. It's my defense mechanism. Some people curl up in a ball. I start throwing out quips like some sort of deranged wood chipper (not all are good, obviously).
I ended up adding another story from the conference to the end of the speech because frankly, a real life (and real time!) example is like gold AND because I was so energized by the atmostphere at this event. THESE PEOPLE ARE MOVERS. THEY ARE DOERS. THEY ARE HELPERS. It was inspiring to witness and I felt like if I was able to demonstrate a concept and help promote someone else's story then I could be a part of this cool community. At 11:30pm I saw Steven's photo on IG and at midnight I was tossing and turning trying to figure out if I could make it work. I had Steven's info written on my arm (and then on a sheet of paper that was tucked into my sleeve) as I walked out on stage.
I was going to wait and see if I felt in control enough of the situation to mention it. (Spoiler Alert.)
to be continued (just one more installment)...