Believe it or not, when I was younger I used to be quiet. I think the biggest reason was the fact we moved quite a bit. So much that I never lived anywhere more than four years until I turned 25 years old. Just when I would get comfortable in a location and make friends it was time to move. But that is also let me meet all kinds of people. I learned that to be liked you either had to be really good at something or be entertaining.
As I became an adult I realized that I had a knack for public speaking. For some reason I have never had a fear of getting in front of people or being in front of a microphone or camera. I’ve always felt that if you know the material you are talking about, then all you have to do is smile, listen and respond. I imagine what kind of information the person watching or listening wants to hear rather than what I want to say. Not that what I am saying isn’t true, but that I have present that information in an entertaining way. In today’s world if you want someone to stay tuned you have to be a combination of informational and entertaining. If you can entertain AND exude confidence a appear to know what you are talking about, public speaking is a breeze. I don’t worry about messing up or what others think because I WILL mess up and there will be judging. It comes with the territory. This weekend I had to make up for something I had messed up and was about to be judged and judged hard.
This weekend I was scheduled to give two garden talks to a fairly large group of gardeners. People from all ages and an overall conference was 400. Two years ago I was the keynote. I get keynote jobs because I am on a television show called Mid American Gardener. As much as being on Domain Sherpa gives me street cred in this industry, MAG gives me street cred in the green industry. Two years ago at that keynote I killed it. I felt it was one of my better speeches and some days you have some off the cuff responses and jokes that work better than other days. That day it worked. I didn’t exactly get the slow clap, there wasn’t a horde of 5 year old girls in dresses picking up flowers that had been thrown on the stage, but a line formed after the talk of people that wanted to ask questions or shake my hand. That’s always a nice thing.
I have been giving speeches and on television for 19 years. I am comfortable. I could give a talk to almost any group for 2 hours. I truly enjoy getting up and sharing my experiences. But that comfortable got me into trouble. That conference that I keynoted for and talked this year, asked me to come back again. I put it on my calendar 12 months later and they reminded a month out that it was coming up. Remember when you were a kid and had a big game how nervous you got? A week out you started getting nervous and the night before it was hard to sleep. But when you do it all the time and feel completely comfortable you don’t have that. It’s just part of the schedule. Michael Jordan said he was “pretty much nervous before every game” but I have to believe that he had become pretty comfortable during the regular season and didn’t lose too much sleep over a mid season game. That’s how I felt about that speech…………………………… and I missed it.
Yes, I didn’t show up. I had it on my calendar for that weekend but in my head it was the next weekend. I was so confident it was the next weekend that I didn’t even check my calendar. Nervous never entered my stomach because I give 20 talks a year. I wasn’t worried a bit so I didn’t count down the days. I was at my niece’s first birthday party and got the call asking where I was. I was mortified. I have never even been late for something, let alone missed it. Unfortunately it was an hour and a half away so I couldn’t get there quickly…………But they still asked me back this year.
This year I was nervous. I joked with them that I was now the Rock n’ Roll speaker. You knew that I gave a great show, you just weren’t sure if I was going to make the stage. They had a sheet asking me if I needed any special requirements like outlets or lighting for my talk and I tried to lighten things up so I put 3 bottles of Fiji water that MUST be room temperature. 88 Peanut M n Ms with the red ones taken out. 2 Red Bulls, an 8 X 10 empty frame, and various other things. I wasn’t sure if they would think it was funny or not but I had already screwed things up I might as well have some fun with it.
So I roll in to this conference and as expected, there is a lot of “Glad you made it this year” introductions. “Yes, I’m the one that didn’t show up last year” was said 100 times. I certainly wasn’t going to miss it. They personally called me every day for the seven days leading up to the talk. When I get into the room I’m supposed to talk the first thing the speaker’s assistant does is give me a bag. It’s filled with all the things in my “rider” Red bull, water, MnMs. All there. All I could do was smile, I knew that all was forgiven and it was now time to give them what they paid me to do. Again, not a slow clap or panties thrown on stage but a pretty happy crowd. The only thing that didn’t go perfectly was the assistant that had brought me the gift but was a little late giving out the handouts. When you have a crowd of 70 year olds, they need their handouts if they have any hope of following along. That screen is pretty far away.
After the talk the assistant came to me and said two things. She said “I am SO sorry for getting the sheets out late. I really hope it didn’t ruin your talk or effect it in any way”. “And two, your sweater is inside out”. Yes for the past 2 and a half hours or trying to get back in the graces of the organizers and meeting and talking in front of hundreds of people, I had my argyle sweater on inside out. The assistant said, “I saw the cuffs and they looked right and the tag was sown on so nicely I thought maybe it was meant to be on the outside. But the more I looked at it I knew it was inside out” I smiled, acted like it was not big deal and went out to talk to the girl from our company that I had spent the last two hours with. “Why didn’t you tell me my sweater was inside out?” She said “I saw the cuffs and they looked right and the tag was sown on so nicely that maybe it was meant to be on the outside. I wasn’t sure if that was the style of the sweater or not”
As I went on stage for the next talk, the first thing I hear is from an 80 year old man. “I see you fixed your sweater”. Because some times, no matter how good you think you are, no matter how much confidence you have, there will always be something to put you back in your place. I’m back in my place.