I Survived a Vicious Bout of Public Speaking

speech 2
No PowerPoint for me! Sorry, 4 years of undergrad business school.

The company publishing my crowdfunding/Kickstarter book, Berrett-Koehler, recently invited my out to their Oakland office for an “author day.” As they explained it to me, they do these author days so that every person involved in the production, editing, marketing, and multimedia ask can meet with the author to discuss the process.

“Also,” they added, “You need to give a 20-30 minute speech about the book to the entire company, followed by a 30-40 minute Q&A.”

After the phone call ended in which the speech was mentioned, I did what any calm, collected professional would do: I stripped naked and ran yelling through my apartment building until someone called the police.

When I finally calmed down a few months later, I outlined a careful plan for surviving the dreaded public speaking: I would wear clothes, stay hydrated, practice and memorize the speech in advance, and arrive in Oakland in the early evening the day before the speech to get a good night’s sleep.

I achieved 50% of those goals.

After rehearsing my speech numerous times, I arrived at the airport in St. Louis, ready for my two-leg flight. Then I waited. And waited. Apparently there was wind in Phoenix or something like that, so the flight was heavily delayed. After a few hours we were rerouted through Las Vegas. I was scheduled to arrive at the hotel in Oakland at 11:00–later than the original 9:30 pm, but not too bad.

Then the flight in Las Vegas was delayed too. This was Southwest–in business school, they taught us that Southwest was good at arriving on time! No dice.

Finally we arrived in Oakland. It was late, so there were hardly any cabs, so I got one of those share-a-rides with three strangers. Fortunately I was the second out of the three stops. I stumbled up to my hotel room, dropped my bags, brushed my teeth (I mention that only because there is nothing better in the world than the feeling of a clean mouth after being in airplanes all day), and crashed into bed.

It was 1:30 am.

So I wasn’t going to get a good night’s sleep before the big speech. The good news was that I was too tired the next day to feel nervous. My body was too focused on staying awake/alive.

I wish I had something outlandish to share about the talk itself, but it actually went really well. My talk was mainly stories about Kickstarter creators in California (I themed the talk for the audience). It flowed well and got a few laughs, and I only had to refer to my notes for one transition. They were really friendly and asked a lot of questions afterwards.

It helps that I actually felt like I knew what I was talking about. It’s a weird feeling to feel comfortable about a subject in that way–it’s like that point when learning a foreign language when you no longer have to think about every word or structure. Words just come out of your mouth like your native tongue.

As far as I know, the only record of the speech are the two photos on this post. But I was there! And I didn’t panic–I kept my clothes on! Though I did apparently put my entire arm in my pants pocket for some reason while my editor was introducing me. Not sure why or how:

speech 1

13 thoughts on “I Survived a Vicious Bout of Public Speaking”

  1. Oh, TED talk. I look forward to that. Jamey Stegmaier and Crowdfunding on TED talk.

    I’m a little sad there’s no mention of loincloth flapping in the wind in this post.

  2. The next time you have an opportunity like this, I vote that you open with 2 minutes straight about crowd surfing, then inject something like, “Oh waitaminute…did you say ‘Crowdfunding’?” to break the ice.

      • Agreed. I can see you now in a room full of editors, book marketers, etc…”OK, now I’m going to ask you guys to cluster together in front of me…You’ll see in a minute…Just go with it…OK, you there! Act like you like that guy next to you…a little closer!”

        • LOL…and I wouldn’t tell them why, because I think we’re all on the same page that it’s a talk about crowdsurfing. That’s awesome.

  3. You worry me when you say “I did 2 of the following 4 things”:
    1. Wore clothes
    2. Drank water
    3. Practiced my speech
    4. Arrived early the next evening

    So for the sake of your dramatic irony preconditioning statement, I’m truly glad you arrived late.


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