Showing Up Without Notes!

Unless you have been living under a stone, if you follow me on any of my social media platforms you would have known of my TEDx Women’s talk last Friday. It was a such a privilege to be asked to speak at this event and even though I had known about it for months, I still found myself feeling unprepared with a week to go.

I was sharing the platform with some accomplished and distinguished women speakers, so I had to bring my ‘A’ game. To say I was feeling the pressure would have been an understatement. I have been watching TED talks for as long as I can remember, and it has always been a dream of mine to do one and here was my chance and what was I doing? Sending myself into a complete tailspin.

The theme for this year was ‘Showing Up’ and we were all asked to make our talk based on that theme. I had no problem at all with this. I was going to show up and do my thing. After all, I had already done several talks to lots of women’s networks in blue chip multinational institutions this year. This should just be like one of those talks and I should be able to take it in my stride. There was of course the small matter of this has being my dream for such a long time. This meant it got into my head in different way and I was feeling slightly unnerved by the whole thing. Anyone who has read my book ‘Octopus on a Treadmill: Women, Success, Health, Happiness’ or heard me speak will know that I am passionate about women’s wellbeing. This was definitely my bag, so why was I all over the place and losing my head this time?

I did what I normally do when I am nervous about something. I prepared and prepared and prepared some more. I rehearsed so much it got to a point where even my dog was looking at me with the look of ‘If I have to listen to this talk again I swear I am going to self-combust!’. This was long after my long-suffering husband and son had bailed out of listening to the talk for the umpteenth time.

Last week was a very busy week for me. I had a governance board meeting on Wednesday which meant lots of slides had to be prepared. This left me with no time to prepare and submit slides to the TEDx organisers who had given us a deadline of that evening. So, I just decided I wasn’t going to use slides, I sent what was going to be my speakers notes which was a list of bullet points and that was just going to have to do.

Did I mention that I over prepared? By Thursday, I had changed my talk so much with my rehearsals while driving on the M25 that the speakers notes I had already submitted were no longer valid so the only way to deliver this talk was for me to speak without notes! A very brave decision for something that is so important to me.

Now I was really going to have show up for my dream without any props! Frightening? You bet. By the way, there is research to show that the only thing people fear more than death is public speaking. Just thought I should drop that in there to raise the temperature a bit.

Sometimes, life pushes you to confront certain things that you wouldn’t necessarily choose to confront. When that happens, we desperately cling to our comfort zones and our props and refuse to engage in the challenge laid out before us. In this case I didn’t have a choice. I just had to focus on the job at hand and just do it. As it turns out that, that was what made my talk stand out. Without the notes, I was freed from having to stand behind the lectern which meant I could fully engage with the audience in a conversational style. I was in the zone that my 18 minutes just flew past, before I knew it, the talk was over.

So to @mycatistheboss who posted on Instagram: ‘watching @gifty.enright speak with no notes or slides. That was such awesome story telling and confidence’, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don’t know you but I hope the talk had some impact on you. I showed up despite all the challenges and it paid off.

Sometimes you just have to respond to life and show up and you never know, you might end up coming up with your best self yet.

I am still buzzing from the talk, I am not sure when I will come down to earth. ‘Helloooo, earth calling Gifty…’

My challenge to you this week? Let go of a prop and see what happens and don’t forget to tell me about it. I am genuinely interested in your stories. Have a good week!