Five years ago I watched my first ever TED Talk. I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s incredible. How can anybody have the courage to speak in front of so many people AND look so calm?”
Later that evening it was all I could think about – I couldn’t focus on anything else, except how it would feel to be involved in TED; it consumed me, and that’s when I realised I wanted to one day be on a TED stage.
Initially however, like most dreams, it was just that – a dream - so I didn’t do much about it as it would also mean having to do two things:
- Confront my stutter; and
- Get into public speaking.
Back then, there was no way I was ever going to do either – it terrified me! The thought at the time was a little like a New Year gym membership - you know, when you want to go but you just can’t find the desire and courage to push yourself.
Fast forward twelve months, after much procrastinating and questioning my sanity, I mustered up the strength to deliver my first talk at a local Toastmasters club. My talk was terrible, but despite that I pushed on and kept practicing. Another twelve months later I felt my confidence levels had increased so I volunteered to lead a presentation at my job at the time, although I still felt nervous and out of my comfort zone, I felt compelled to step up and try. I completely failed and it ended up costing the Company a major project.
That was the ultimate tipping point for me and a reminder that I needed to not only get comfortable with public speaking, but needed to find a way to accept and work with my stutter, rather than against it. Accepting my issue and facing it was one of the most frightening and empowering decisions I have ever made.
I started practicing my speaking skills even more. Practicing for a talk meant hours of repetition, mind-battles dealing with and accepting my stutter, as well as crafting talks into deliverable stories. Delivering each talk meant risking failure, feeling embarrassed, being judged and having your confidence repeatedly smashed. It also meant listening to other people criticise me, point out my flaws, and then accepting that criticism and using it to improve myself. I had to put myself into a position of vulnerability each time and be comfortable with exposing myself completely.
After countless talks I realised that I could manage my stutter and speak (somewhat fluently), so I coached myself, set some goals and developed strategies with personal milestones. As I progressed I realised how much I loved doing this and wanted to pursue a career as a speaker and speaker coach but that meant immersing myself into the speaking world and concentrating all my efforts into speaking.
People say when you emit a certain energy the world responds to you, but you sometimes need a little luck too. Pushing myself to talk as much as possible really opened the door for me – it was by chance somebody happened to watch me do a talk at my Toastmasters club that led them to invite me as an external speaker to TEDxATOPerth, giving me the opportunity to deliver my first (and hopefully not last!) TEDx talk in December 2018.
In the same instance, immersing myself in all things speaking and grappling with ‘getting comfortable being uncomfortable,’ it just so happened that at a random networking workshop I met somebody who introduced me to the TEDxPerth team, following which I was subsequently accepted by TEDx Perth as a Speaker Coach. It is such an honour to have been accepted as part of the core team, and an amazing experience working with them and the speakers. I hope to continue this role long into the future.
I still cannot believe that I have been given these opportunities. I recently had my first taste of speaking Internationally at Prague Speakers and whilst I am not speaking on a global stage (yet!) I’d like to think that being involved in the world of TEDx is an excellent starting point and with much more effort and persistence, my ultimate goal of being a recognised speaker globally shouldn’t be too far away.