3 minutes. Then the mic is cut, the spotlight turns off and you are back in the darkness as the showcase speaker on the other side of the stage begins their 3 minutes.
No pressure. Ha! It was a blast. I’d submitted an idea for sharing a short story about taking my students on weekly field trips a few years back as a way to develop a sense of identity in the community. I was surprised, as a rookie, that my showcase was selected. 21 in all, spread over two very-well-timed mornings.
I was on day two. The interesting thing is how I felt so incredibly tense when I watched the day one speakers. I wasn’t on deck for another day, but the almost-800 watching eyes makes for a large room that I’m not used to being at the front of. Day one was incredible. Moving, emotional, inspiring. Certainly imposter syndrome starts to rattle around a little during these events, but I kept telling myself I was selected for a reason. Right?
The evening before the talk we were sequestered to the ballroom for a rehearsal. I can’t say as though I’ve ever stood in a spotlight, but it is a strange feeling to hear your voice booming over the speakers with an audience you can’t really see due to the brightness. You lose that connection – the feedback you get in a small space. You had to just trust that your story is connecting with at least a few folks in the audience and just be yourself.
My practice didn’t go great. There’s floor monitor screens and a countdown timer on the podium. I had to cut a slide on the fly. I knew I’d settle into it for the actual Showcase, but it certainly didn’t settle my nerves when I later left the ballroom and joined everyone else for dinner.
The morning of the talk I felt pretty good. So long as I didn’t drop the clicker or talked too slow things would go well.
When the talks began we were seated at the front of the room in our order. I was halfway through the pack and when the speaker before me was at one minute left, I stood and slowly made my way up the dark left side of the stage. I could see on the monitor that he had ten seconds left. I took a breath. Applause for the other speaker began and then I was washed in light and the room went silent.
3 minutes. I actually had 3 seconds to spare. I don’t remember much about the talk, or getting down to my seat, but I do remember trying to send a tweet afterwards and the combination of both sweaty and fear-frozen fingers made it challenging to tap the iPhone glass.
But I did it. Do something scary once and while – right?
It’s something I won’t forget. Thank you Apple for the opportunity and to the other speakers for being so supportive. You were all fantastic and your stories matter.