I’m giving my first workshop later today. Wish me luck! At this time last year, I had a half-formed idea and a tentative image of myself speaking to a group, specifically my fellow World Domination Summit attendees. A year before that, I wouldn’t have done such a thing under any circumstances. In fact, when I was seven years old, I was supposed to recite a verse that I had memorized at the winter recital, and I dove under the table and refused to come out until they promised I wouldn’t have to speak. My mom rightly pointed out that if I had just mumbled through my piece, I would have been done in ten seconds, and that making a scene made it that much worse. Let’s just say that I have no particular hunger for the spotlight. At a certain point, though, you start to realize that you have something important to share and that people will be better off if they know about it. That’s where workshops are sprouted.
The first point is always to have something to say that is both important and interesting. People will listen to you blathering on about anything if you’re funny enough. You can do a stand-up routine about the tiniest thing, like sending a text message or ordering coffee. Note that these routines tend to be very brief. I carry a heavy sense of responsibility that if I’m performing, every minute that someone spends listening to me should be a good use of that person’s time. The larger the audience, the more expensive it is to be irrelevant or boring. One minute of hemming and hawing multiplied by twenty people is twenty life-minutes I’ve just drained away. This is why I’ve spent the last year and a half working on my public speaking skills. Most of the time, I don’t even say ‘um’ anymore, so if I’m boring it will be for other reasons.
After knowing that you have an incredibly useful and interesting topic and that you have a burning desire to share it, it’s time to get specific. What will this workshop be like? Where will it be held? How long will it be? How many people can attend? What will they do? Are you going to talk the whole time, are you going to lead people through a series of exercises, or will it be a combination of both? What level of participation are you expecting?
I’m a shy person - recall the table-dive anecdote I just shared - and I respect that in other people. I can easily recall all the times when even being asked to raise my hand among a group of other people raising their hands was exquisitely embarrassing. I still battle with threshold anxiety, the sense of not even wanting to walk into a room because there are people in there. *gasp* This is why one of my considerations is going to be with allowing shy people to opt out of participation. I’m not one to orchestrate a bunch of group exercises like trust falls. I like to allow the bolder extroverts to chime in, while those with a lower comfort level can observe in peace.
Wait, so why is a shy person conducting a workshop?
I’ve learned that I can switch into performance mode if I feel the need. This is easier to do when the message feels important enough that I’m thinking more about what I’m saying than I am about myself. I can think about myself and my feelings back at home. I try to focus on connecting with my audience. Making eye contact with individual people was really, really hard at first, but with weekly practice I’ve been training it into myself. I’m an extrovert. Note that a shy extrovert can track like an introvert in most ways. The difference is that many introverts are comfortable doing things like giving presentations in a professional setting, while they need a lot of solitude and do their best thinking alone. Shy extroverts such as myself get a charge out of being in groups, we tend to think out loud, we often prefer collaboration, but we find it hard to open up with strangers. “Once you get me going…” This is one reason that public speaking has been so valuable to me, even though it was brutally hard for the first several months. It’s exhilarating to share an idea or a story and to get a positive response from an appreciative audience.
People have started taking notes when I talk, or engaging with me about my work. This is weird and unprecedented for me, but it’s also great feedback. If they keep asking for more, who am I to say no? I’m so thin-skinned and sensitive to criticism that I will definitely notice if I can’t hold the attention of the audience. Eyes up and glistening, good. Heads down, phones up, not so good.
I would never be doing this uncharacteristic, challenging thing if it weren’t for Toastmasters or the World Domination Summit. I can’t praise Toastmasters enough. For a person with an acute, nausea-level dread of public speaking, there’s really no better place to go. Everyone is so encouraging and tactful, and almost every person there has felt the exact same way. When I started, I was so scared that I almost collapsed one time, and that was after I had finished my speech! It took months of concerted effort, and it remains one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but the results have been life-changing. Releasing a fear is one of the most powerful satisfactions in the world.
As for the World Domination Summit, I can hardly begin to describe how much it has changed my life, my marriage, and how I approach problems. This is why I’m pushing myself far outside of my comfort zone and leading my first meetup. I understand how valuable my topic will be for people, and I also have a strong desire to give back to the community that has given so very much to me.
PS The workshop is called ‘Curate Your Stuff’ and I’m going to put together a workbook for download. Since there were only 33 spots, naturally there may be people who are interested in the material but were unable to attend.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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