‘What would be your superpower of choice and why? And the person to answer this question is… Julia!’
A quick burst of applause. I get up and walk in the front of the room. There are only about 20 people there, but my heart is racing. I breathe in and out, allowing the oxygen to reach my frontal lobe (as advised my Madame Toastmaster earlier) and I force myself to look at the audience before I speak.
It’s a Wednesday and I’m at the Toastmasters monthly gathering, invited by my friend Jay Surti of Effective Business Communication, an experienced speaker and coach, for my first time ever and I’m already about to speak in front of an audience.
‘Wow, what’s your superpower of choice? Who wouldn’t want to be asked that question!?’
Some people laugh. I pause. I look at the programme to my left and beg my brain to give me something to hang on to. Earlier the person who introduced the Tabletop section mentioned Reddit. I know nothing about Reddit. Except…
‘If I could have any superpower, I’d like to have the ability not to suck!’ Another pause and some laughter in the audience. Think I nailed the surprised factor. ‘And since we’ve mentioned Reddit, I once watched a video of the Reddit founder talking about how before you get any good at something you have to suck at it first! But I don’t want to suck, I was to get straight to being really good at something! Because so many times I was stopped in my tracks because I wasn’t any good and didn’t carry on with that activity. And maybe I would have gotten good at it eventually if I had only carried on. Plus all the time we waste sucking. If I can get really good at something really quickly then I can focus more on how to use these abilities to do more in life. And achieve more. Like world peace!’
I didn’t know what else to say anymore, my mind had gone blank but it was enough, my allocated time was almost over.
‘So yeah. This would be my superpower of choice!’
People realised I was done and applause followed. Flushed face, I returned to my seat. It took a few minutes for the surreal of the situation to wear off. I felt like I wasn’t the one who occupied my body, but a different person. Some alien entity who took possession of my body and did all those things. Who talked shamelessly about ‘sucking’, who looked at the audience, opened her arms and spoke boldly. Who could have done better though. I mean what was the point of that alien taking over if it couldn’t do better, if it couldn’t find a better ending to the speech. Damn, if only I had some control over it!
Apparently I did really well for my first time speaking in public in front of an audience of public speakers themselves.
Apparently it took Martin Luther King 8 years to craft his ‘I have a dream’ speech from 1969.
Apparently public speaking isn’t so different from writing. A great book, a great speech – they both take time, learning and crafting! Look the audience in the eye – show, don’t tell. Be yourself when you speak – create your own writing style. Speak your mind – don’t overthink, be creative.
When you speak, you see the public’s reaction straight away. When you write, well, there is more guesswork involved. But you can test your voice and your mind in front of an audience and be sure that this will have a great positive impact on your writing as well.
Everyone tells me at the end I did really well. The Grammarian – an elderly lady – approaches me.
‘I didn’t quite understand what was the superpower you were talking about’ she says.
‘Sucking!’ I say.
‘Excuse me, what?’
‘Sucking. As in being bad at something?’
Guess she wasn’t convinced. But it didn’t matter. I’ve learnt a great lesson that night: that I love performing and making people laugh. That I love pushing my limits, getting out of my comfort zone. That this is it, it’s happening. My vision for my life is coming together. A writer, a speaker, anything! As long as I can speak my mind!
And you can too. Watch Jay’s great video at Tedx and feel as inspired as I was: