Every 2 years, my high school has an “Alumni Showcase” day when they invite graduates to return to the school to share their infinite wisdom with the students. I regretted not going 2 years ago, so I decided for sure I would go this year.
Even though I was speaking to 14-18 year olds, I was irrationally nervous about public speaking. I’ve talked about this before on the blog, and people are often quick to offer solutions for it. I can assure you, if it were that easy to fix, I would have done so years ago.
The problem isn’t the speaking itself. I’m a poised and confident public speaker. I’m not great–I can’t command a crowd like some people–but if you didn’t know about my fear, you couldn’t tell while watching me.
That’s because the fear kicks in before the speech. Weeks before. Really, I didn’t sleep well for weeks leading up to the Alumni Showcase. And when I woke up the night before at 3:30 am, I couldn’t go back to sleep, no matter how often I told myself the fear was completely irrational.
Anyway, the day itself was pretty interesting. I was randomly assigned to a group of 3 other alumni, and I presented my 7-minute talk four times throughout the day with that group to different classes. It was the last day before spring break, so they weren’t completely focused, but they also weren’t disruptive (it’s a magnet high school, so the students are there because they want to learn and/or they want to get into good colleges).
My talk was about how my “least profitable hobby” unexpectedly turned into my career. It felt a little weird to give a talk about board games to students who probably have never even considered the possibility of such an odd career, but that was kind of the point. I wanted to show them that it’s possible to turn a hobby into a craft, and then into a career.
The students weren’t particularly forthcoming with questions after the presentations, but we did get a few good ones. My favorite–and one that stumped us a little bit, though we gave answers–was from a senior who asked, “We have about 10 weeks left in high school. Is there anything important you’d recommend we do during that time?”
What would you tell that senior in high school (as if you were talking to your high school self)?