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Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Presentation at LLL Conference

Five years ago while I was pregnant with David, I attended Toastmaster's, an international speaking and leadership group. I have always had stage-fright and I didn't have any impending plans to do a talk, but still, I figured I would need some speaking training for the future.

After David was born, I never found the time to attend toastmaster's again. I have always stayed away from opportunities to speak. Mary has asked me a few times to speak at LLL conference. Last year, I was putting final touches on the book and quite pre-occupied with the details, so I told her next year...

"Next year" came quickly and the conference committee sent me a flattering letter and invitation way back in Febuary. October seemed so far away...

But by September it dawned on me that this thing I committed to was really approaching. It seemed that especially on weekends I dwelled on what this committment meant and I was wishing I'd called Mary a long time ago and backed out. Stage-fright was definatly setting in along with my long to-do list of all the things I had to do to prepare a talk and slideshow (This was my first time preparing powerpoint. I never used the program before.), and get myself and my family ready to go out of town. For at least 6 weeks (no-kidding) I felt like a zombie trying to get stuff done.

As we are gettting down to the final wire, the last week, I am really wondering if I can do this talk or will I just pass out when I get put in the spotlight. My fear was overpowered by all the other last minute details of getting packed and out, and taking care of the practice, and final touches on the talk.

The night before the talk I went to bed early to make sure I get enough rest (it WAS NOT a slumber party that night). Sure enough at 3:00 a.m. I awoke, and tossed and turned, and my lines went round-n-round in my head. I dreamed Lauren went to my old Toastmaster's meeting with me. They (the toastmasters) evaluated my speaking-- the ums, the ahs, the subject, visuals, speech, enunciation, affect, body languague and opening line... oh, they are a tough, but friendly, group of critics... Also, in my dream the purpose of Lauren going with me to evaluate my speech for the appropriateness for this conference. (Perhaps, one would expect me to talk more about breastfeeding than birth?) Am I paranoid?

In the morning, other experienced speakers told me they were also tossing and still preparing through the night. I was not alone!

I enjoyed Mary's workshop in the morning and then went back to my room and went through my talk twice(!) reading it aloud in my room.

Fifteen minutes before the scheduled talk, I met up with the computer-donor-guy to make sure the power point was working. It worked, but my thumb was shaking almost too much to turn the dial on the remote control (why couldn't it just be a button?). I wondered how I was going to hold a Mike, my index cards, and the power point remote control. I decided to forgo the Mike and make sure I talk loudly.

By now, the stage-fight was gone because I was so numb.

I think there was 40-60 women at any one point in the room.

Everyone was smiling at me.

I was thinking about the e-mail, I received last night from my doula and friend with regrets that she couldn't attend and this encouragement:

I realize you like one-on-one, but, when you step outside your comfort zone with a talk like this, you're going to have a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when it's over. That alone will entice you to do more conference speaking. You know your subject matter well. Be encouraged! I'm praying for you. G-d will be with you.
Warm hugs,

Bernadette's always reminding me of Higher Purpose at the right time.

Mary gave me such a nice introduction. My thumb was really shaking, but I managed to get the power point going and used my BIG opening line ("Thank you for being here!") and with everyone smiling at me and nodding at me to go on, I did. It was nice to have Mary, Sandra, Lauren, Tach, Alyssa, Anne, Lisa, Pam, and Jen (did I miss anyone) present. Your encouragement help me! Jayne, Christy, Bernadette, Sharon, Courtney, Sam, Gerrie, you were there in spirit.... I mean your breasts or pregnant bellies were in my power point.

So, yes, the talk--my performance-- went well. I was well rehearsed-- Jayne's delivery, William's birth, Scott's birth and finally David's birth. No obvious mistakes in the power point. I flipped the photos at the right time. My index cards were in the right order. No repetitive ummms or ahhhs. I didn't need to hide behind the podium (there wasn't one anyway).

I was asked very appropriate questions after the talk. None caught me by surprise. Questions about breech, and breech turning techniques, and the political climate of birth and options. I got a few "what-if" questions, like what if I have GBS, can I still have a natural birth (yes, you can). All these are fairly typical things that I get asked and mostly have addressed before.... mothers have choices.

Mary and Sandra, the two midwives-in-training, said I handled all the questions well. I can tell by the questions that I was heard in the back.

The next morning a leader who attended gave me one-on-one feedback, "My affect fit each boys birth and she felt like she was taken back in time to my births." (The old toastmaster critics would be happy). It's true, my mind was there and to do a successful talk you have to tune everything around you out.

This was hard work and perhaps my stage-fright isn't as much stage-fright as it is questioning the time commitment and what all is involved doing something like this. Is it worth all this energy? I am glad its over. I am glad I am behind my computer tonight, networking and socializing in my comfort zone.

I would love feedback. Not toastmaster's type critique (although I am open to anything you want to share). I want to know if all this effort helps you. I'd really love to know if listening to this (me!), normalized the circumstances around your birth and gives you hope and healing. Please let me know.

(Mary said she would send some photos this weekend. She is studying now.)


Trish Chibas said...

From everyone I spoke to they said you did a wonderful job. Wish I could have been there. Do you think you'll be speaking again next year?

pearly1979 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christy ~ Munch75 said...

What a great post! I felt like I was there! :) You're always so confident, it's hard to picture you being nervous. One-on-One you are wonderful, open and full of knowledge, which made me (as a new mom) feel at ease and more comfortable with my body and what it can do. :) At the LLL meeting on Monday night, great things were shared, and lots of neat pics.

I wish I was able to attend, I really wanted to. Hopefully next year you'll speak again and I'll be there with a toddler and nice pregnant belly? :) One can only wish!

Oh, what is GBS? Guillain Barre Syndrome?

Permission to Mother said...

GBS=Group B Strep infection.

Anonymous said...

My mind was taken back to a session of Marian Thompson's (a LLL founder; The Revolutionaries Wore Pearls)Your session included not only information about, but support for the radical notion of homebirth and importantly included open dialog with resources for mothers with special circumstances seeking non interventive birth.
Pearls for Denise!

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