At the Podium
How I learned to calm the butterflies and deliver an engaging speech
I was on stage at the annual conference of the National Nurses in Business Association and I was nervous. This was one of my first national speaking gigs. Naturally, I had the jitters. was on stage at the annual conference of the National Nurses in Business Association and I was nervous. This was one of my first national speaking gigs. Naturally, I had the jitters.
My speaking career was just beginning, so it felt like my reputation in this tight-knit community of nurse entrepreneurs was at stake. There were friends, colleagues and many strangers in the audience. I needed to deliver.
Scanning the seats for friendly faces, I caught the eye of Kevin Ross, RN, my then-business partner and podcasting co-host, and then spotted Renee Thompson, RN, DNP, DMSRN, CSP, one of the most accomplished nurse speakers in the country as well as my very dear friend. Kevin and I smiled at each other, Renee gave me two thumbs up and I was off to the races.
Once I began to speak, my nervousness evaporated. As I’ve come to recognize, when I stand on stage, my inner standup comic often comes to the fore. When Kevin began to heckle me in a friendly and supportive way, his humorous banter set the tone. The room was soon filled with laughter and nods of recognition.
My moment had come, and I seized it with gusto. That experience taught me that I could overcome my reticence, summon my courage and deliver a talk that engaged my audience.
First Time Anxiety
Years ago, if you’d told me I’d be willingly, even Years ago, if you’d told me I’d be willingly, even happily, speaking on stage to hundreds of nurses, I would’ve told you to get lost. For me, as for most people, my anxiety about public speaking was greater than my fear of death. Writing and podcasting helped me gradually become comfortable sharing my thoughts in public, but the idea of standing in front of a live audience remained deeply intimidating.
My first speaking engagement came back in 1996, when I was selected by my fellow students to be the commencement speaker at our pinning ceremony. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to use humor as a means of allaying my fears and entertaining the audience while also being sincerely reflective about the privilege of becoming a nurse. By coupling humor with the pathos of fellow class members who had suffered tragedy and come out shining, we moved from humor to tears and back again in the course of my 15 minutes at the microphone.