Melanie and her husband, Beau, picked me up at the Philadelphia airport and drove us to our hotel in Wilmington, Delaware, where I would deliver a TEDx talk the following afternoon. A “Meet and Greet” was scheduled that evening which was where Melanie introduced me to some of the other speakers. I then realized what a nerve-wracking ordeal this really was.
I met entrepreneurs, Google masters, scientists, life coaches, geniuses. Several were there with their agents and support staff who would be in the audience, assuring a standing ovation for their friend. I was there with…well, me. Close friends had asked to come, but I had chosen to go it alone. Now I wasn’t so sure that was a grand plan.
One lady, a psychoanalyst, shared that she had submitted four videos to the TED organizers. All were rejected. She hired an audio coach. A speech coach. A videographer. A make-up person. Only then was she accepted. I had done none of that. Melanie Burris, a recruiter for this platform, had orchestrated this opportunity for me. Until then, I had no idea how much people needed this talk to advance their positions in the workplace.
I was to speak at 3:30. By noon, they were an hour behind, so they shortened lunch and omitted the afternoon break (which came one speaker before me). From backstage, I sensed the audience was lethargic for the two speakers preceding me. Not good. My opening line, intended to get a laugh, got none. This was an uphill battle I had not intended. Within the first two minutes, I messed up a sentence. My recovery was not stellar. The next “humorous” section caused a few chuckles but not what I had hoped for.
Maybe I needed a stun gun. Or a trap door that would swallow me whole.
Suggestions made by friends (Suck on a lemon drop; drink tons of water with electrolytes; have no caffeine) had helped, so at least I hadn’t passed out or had my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, but I was not capturing my audience. I reminded myself that God had allowed this opportunity and visualized Jesus standing beside me. My biggest fan was on that stage with me. Friends were praying for me. The audience needed to hear this message about the rewards of rejection.
When I came to the next funny part, I was shocked to hear people laughing…hard. From that point on, they continued to do so. At the end, several stood to applaud, and at the after-party, many introduced themselves and made kind comments. A thousand-pound weight was lifted from my shoulders, most which came from me having no idea what to expect when I first said “yes” to memorizing this speech.
The unknown is so ridiculously…unknown, isn’t it? Several times before this talk, I considered backing out, but when I thought of the people praying for me, trusting that God had a purpose (perhaps to teach me humility?), I knew that I could not let Fear win. Fear can paralyze.
One of my close friends recently shared that she avoids large crowds because of an experience with a cruel teacher who called her to the front of her fifth-grade class and demanded an answer. When the student froze, she had to hold her hands out for the teacher to strike each palm with a ruler. All while her classmates watched. To date, she is fifty-five years old and is terrified of crowds. God wants differently.
“Fear not” is written 365 times in the Bible. Obviously fear is a problem God wants us to overcome. One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 41:13: For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. The coolest thing is—He does. We just have to be willing to give Him a chance.