We all have fears of one sort or another. The fear matters not—it’s how you react to that fear that makes the difference! As a high school student, I would take a failing grade before I would stand in front of the class and make a verbal presentation. Just thinking about speaking in front of my fellow students caused me to sweat, shake, and get sick to my stomach. Rather than facing that fear and attempting to overcome it, I chose to take a failing grade. Today, I speak for a living in front of small groups and massive audiences at major conventions all over North America. I just wished I had addressed that fear much earlier in my career.
Seven years ago, I was invited to keynote and conduct a breakout for the Governor’s Workforce Development Conference for the State of Wisconsin. I was privileged to be sharing the platform with the Governor of Wisconsin. When I arrived at the beautiful Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells I met what appeared to be a very nervous young man. He was introduced to me as a very talented webmaster for the State by the name of Stu Voeck. Apparently Stu had just been given the task of introducing me to this very large conference audience, and he was scared stiff as he had never before done anything like this even though he was currently involved with Toastmasters. In addition, his left arm was in an immobilizer to limit the movement of a dislocated elbow.
Having quite some time before my address, we sat down, relaxed, got to know one another and chatted about Stu’s sudden challenge/opportunity. I call it that because he was actually excited about this opportunity and what it might mean for him in the future. At the same, he had very strong reservations about walking out on that stage, even though it would only be for a minute or two.
I shared a few insights with Stu, we weighed a few options and I couldn’t help but note that he began to relax just a bit. Long story short … Stu marched out on that stage in front of a massive audience and delivered one of the best introductions I had ever enjoyed. He left me feeling that I had better live up to the expectations he had given the audience. I don’t know if it was his pride or his relief that lifted him off that stage … but I could have sworn I saw a hop and a skip in that exit. I’m certain that no one in that audience knew that was Stu’s first speaker introduction.
Stu did advance to the level of Advanced Toastmaster – Bronze and served as club president and received an award from Toastmaster International for his club performance during his presidency. Why do I feel I’m going to end up working for him?
Ironically, a year later, Stu was called upon once more to introduce me as the keynote speaker at an Association of Job Search Trainers conference in Palm Springs, California. I almost didn’t recognize him as he delivered a well-polished, very professional introduction. He had indeed grown a great deal in just one year.
To this day, we laugh about that experience and how far he’s come from that initial fear and how well he faced it and overcame it. I’ve been following Stu’s career since that time as we still speak on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. He’s attained many goals and continues to raise the bar for himself. I’m proud and privileged to call him my friend! You might just soon be attending a national conference where another very shaky rookie walks out on a stage and introduces the keynote speaker as Stu Voeck!
Watch for him and realize you wouldn’t be seeing him up there and enjoying his presentation if he hadn’t faced his fear many years ago. You, too, can enjoy that same success! Will you?