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Image Credits: Her Campus 

Here are 8 words I never thought I’d say together:

‘So I Want To Be A Motivational Speaker…”

Growing up, I hated public speaking. I used to get terribly nervous getting up in front of the class and speaking. I’d stumble on my words. I’d forget everything I was supposed to say. And the worst part was I’d quiver and shake like nobody’s business.

I always had an interest in acting when I was kid. It always seemed like so much fun to be the star of the school play, or even the church play. But I could never get past my nerves. I used to do okay in church plays until I was about 10-12 years old. Then it’s like a light switch would go off inside of me that made me aware of the fact that there was tons of people watching me. Despite knowing all of my lines by heart for the last two months, when it came time to actually speak I’d freeze up and completely forget everything. I think at that point you could have asked me what my name was and I’d tell you I’ve forgotten that too.

Fortunately, this is something I began to overcome a bit as I got older, mainly because I didn’t have a choice.  As part of my general education requirements as a student at Gloucester County College (now known as Rowan College at Gloucester County) I was forced to take a class in Public Speaking. At the time I thought this was cruel and unusual punishment and I dreaded it. I was fairly confident I’d freeze up and make an ass out of myself in front of all of my classmates every time I had to give a presentation.

However, that didn’t happen at all. Actually, being forced against my will to take a public speaking class at Gloucester County College may have been one of the best things to ever happen to me. Unlike most of my classmates, I actually read my book insteading of just trying to wing the class. The book combined with my professor’s lectures were extremely helpful. They gave me advice and strategies to help me prepare myself for my presentations and deliver them without getting too nervous and to have a safety net to fall back on so I wouldn’t have to worry about forgetting things so much.

One of the most important strategies I learned was to create an outline of my speech to always have with me. This outline was just that — an outline. It would include brief keywords or topics in order to help keep me on track and help me to stay focused in the event that I became nervous and began to forget what I was supposed to say. However, it wouldn’t have so much information that I’d resort to reading my speech and boring my classmates to tears. Another thing I learned to include in my speech that was very helpful was the word “pause” or “look up”. This kept me from talking too fast and not making eye contact with my audience.

Two other important lessons I learned in class was to speak about an interesting topic and to make it fun. My favorite speech that I gave during that class was my commemorative speech. It could have been on anything it just had to fit the commemorative style. I chose to do my speech on Barbie since it was the 50th anniversary of Barbie that year. My speech was interesting and informative and I kept my classmates attention by using many visuals that showed barbie throughout the years and starting my presentation by playing the song “Barbie Girl” by Aqua.

I actually got very good at the public speaking thing by the end of my class. I was known as one of the best speakers in my class and it actually became fun for me. I learned that public speaking is a very great way to let people know you have a voice, you have a story, or something important to say. When done properly, you can speak, and people will listen.

I didn’t have much of a story back then. I didn’t have many important things to say. I was just a kid speaking about Barbie and fighting against school uniforms in order to get an A in a mandatory class I never wanted to take. But things are different now.

I have a cochlear implant. It changed my life. I have had quite a journey with it. I went from never being able to hear, to being able to hear everything. But even during those days when I couldn’t hear, I pushed myself to succeed. I did the things people said I could never do. And now that I can hear, that is especially true.

I was told by a woman at my mom’s church shortly before I was activated “God is giving you a gift by allowing you to hear now. He is doing it for a reason and now you need to find out what that reason is.” And I think this may be it. God wants me to use my hearing to share my story with others. He wants me to help serve as a voice to others in the deaf/hoh community or others who have been told they can’t do things because of a disability. He wants me to talk to them and show them that they can do anything they put their minds to.

One of my idols is Sean Forbes. Sean Forbes is a deaf rapper and he works to make music accessible to everyone. He is also a motivational speaker and he frequently visits schools to tell kids  his story and to encourage them not to give up on their dreams, especially if people tell them they can’t do something. Sean has always been an inspiration to me, and I want to be like him now. I want to do what he does. I want to be a motivational speaker.

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I was lucky enough to meet Sean back in 2013 following one of the shows he did at The University of Pennsylvania. He was one of the nicest, coolest guys I ever met.

I admit that I am a bit nervous and scared about this. Unless you count the presentations I’ve given at work, I haven’t done public speaking in quite some time. I don’t know how many people I’ll be speaking to, but chances are it will be a great deal more than my co-workers and the former classmates I’ve spoken to in the past. I’m still learning how this all works (if anyone knows anything or has any tips, feel free to leave a comment. It will all be greatly appreciated!). But I know I want to do this.

My first instinct for now is to look into the connections I already have and reach out to people. The first thing that comes to mind is trying to get involved with Rowan’s disability awareness week that takes place every October. I’ve meet the people in charge of that and worked with them for this event in the past, so I’m sure they’d be more than willing to work with me this time. Once I think it over more and decide more on what exactly I’d like to say, I may contact them about my idea and that may very well be one of my first speaking engagements.

I’d also like to look into reaching out to churches, my past high schools, my old community college, cochlear implant support groups, organizations or schools for the deaf and/or people with disabilities. There are so many possibilities.

It would be great to get paid to speak in time, but for now I am more focused on just sharing my story and connecting with others to inspire them, encourage them, and let them know that there’s nothing they can’t do. It would be pretty awesome to help encourage someone else who is in the same position I once was in to go forward with getting a cochlear implant, too.

I have a voice. I have a gift. I have a story. Now it’s time to share it.

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