First I was afraid, I was petrified…

Keynote speak at TechEd EMEA 2007

Keynote speak at TechEd EMEA 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seemed like a long time before I heard my introduction. I threaded my way through the round tables surrounded by delegates. I took special care when I stepped up onto the stage. The last thing I wanted to do was fall over and make a tit of myself in front of hundreds of people. I took my place and turned to face the audience. They stretched off into the distance. Behind me were giant screens showing my presentation and I had a gizmo in my hand to work the slide deck.

I started my presentation. I could hear my voice, small and trembling, amplified by the lapel microphone. Why was my voice trembling? My heart started to bounce around my ribcage at alarming speed. words tumbled out at a million miles an hour. It was only then I realised how nervous I was. Although I was no stranger to presentations, my subconscious mind decided that this one was different and a sensible survival strategy was escape at the earliest opportunity.

This was the first presentation I gave to a large audience and as I made the long walk back to my seat, I convinced myself that I made a mess of it. During the breakout session afterwards, someone sought me out and congratulated me for doing a good job. I gracefully accepted her praise, but inside I was far from convinced. But she wasn’t alone. By the end of the day, I had praise from quite a few.

This taught me a few things. Firstly, no matter how nervous you are, it never looks as bad as you think to your audience. Despite the little voice inside your head telling you otherwise, they are not waiting for you to make a fool of yourself. They want you to succeed. Even if they do detect any nerves, they are more interested in what you have to say. The other thing I learned that day is to never, ever let your boss persuade you to ditch the presentation you prepared and practised to rewrite it the night before showtime.

As soon as another opportunity to present to a large audience came up, I grabbed it. It was important to me that I improved. My voice still trembled, and so did my hand which wasn’t good because I had a hand-held microphone this time. It was most disconcerting to see it wobbling around right in front of me. I managed to slow down though and I was much happier with the presentation.

Nowadays – I’m relaxed about presenting on stage to large audiences. I still get nervous and I think I always will, but it all adds to the spice of life.


The big day


Wedding cake

Wedding cake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As she looked in the mirror, she realised with a deep sigh that it was still not good enough. Reaching for a wipe to remove the make up from her face, Alison tutted under her breath and told herself that today of all days – it had to be perfect. She glanced at the clock and gasped as the lateness of the hour dawned on her.

She tossed the used wipe into the bin where it joined several others and she reached for another. She stared disbelieving as she realised that it was her last one. This was her last chance in more ways than one. It would help if she wasn’t so damned nervous. There was a definite tremor in her hands and her stomach felt like a washing machine.

Removing the last of her make up, her thoughts drifted to the night before. Over and over, people had asked her if she was sure she was doing the right thing. It was a big step after all. As if she didn’t know. As if she hadn’t been through it in her head a thousand times before. Why were they trying to put doubts in her mind?

As she started applying her foundation, tendrils of uncertainty crept up on her. What if she was making a mistake. Was this the real thing? Were they going to be together forever? What if it all went wrong? She had felt so certain before, but sitting in her bridal lingerie with her make up half applied had made it all so terrifyingly real.

She looked at the clock again and nervousness started maturing into panic. She reached for her blusher and fumbled sending cosmetics flying in every direction. There was a knock at the door. “Are you OK in there?”. It was Sarah, her bridesmaid. “I’m fine – just clumsy”. She heard a giggle from the other side of the door and with a deep breath, Alison composed herself.

The rest of her make-up went on without incident and she surveyed the finished product in the mirror. It certainly wasn’t perfection but it would have to do. She had no more wipes and no more time. She pulled on her bridal gown as best she could, and called out for Sarah to come and zip her up. As she walked in, Sarah gasped and told her she looked beautiful.

Alison blushed, but she was so happy to hear the compliment and it helped to dispel a few of the butterflies in her stomach. As Sarah struggled with the zip, Alison looked in the mirror once more. Maybe she did look OK. From outside there was the sound of a car horn. “That’ll be the driver” Sarah said.

“Could we just have a quick drink Sarah? You know – to settle my nerves.” Disappearing with a wink, Sarah returned in an instant with a mini bottle of champagne and two glasses. The champagne was quickly poured and bride and bridesmaid chinked glasses before sinking a long mouthful.

The car horn sounded again, more urgently this time. “We’d better go!” Sarah said as she gave Alison’s arm a reassuring squeeze. Alison nodded and they headed out to the car. Alison didn’t know much about cars, but this one was very impressive – paid for by her father. As the doors shut behind them, they settled into the luxurious seats.

“Are you sure you’re OK?” Sarah asked. Alison nodded and stuttered that she was nervous. Sarah grabbed her hand and held it tightly. “It’s only natural – you’ll be fine”.

All too soon, they pulled up outside the registry office. Once out on the pavement, Sarah pulled Alison’s veil down into place and gave her a reassuring smile. “Let’s get you hitched!” she said. Alison moved robotically as she was led by the hand into the building. As she walked through the office towards the front, she glanced around her at all her guests furtively through the protection of her veil.

Although she had jelly legs, she managed to reach the front of the room without incident. She turned to face her partner for the first time that day as per the bridal tradition. Rebecca was resplendent in an identical gown to Alison and as they exchanged smiles through their veils, the last hints of nervousness melted away. Everything was going to be just perfect.