One of my favourite ways of spreading my message about stroke-awareness is through public speaking - by actually standing up in a room full of people, telling my story and doing my best to educate them about stroke and stress.
It can’t be denied that this blog and The Warrior Podcast (thewarriorpodcast.libsyn.com and on iTunes) have a greater reach and get my brand in front of more pairs of eyes, but there is nothing like the buzz that I get from actually scaring people live and in the flesh.
It’s something I would never have dreamed of doing before my stroke. There is a reason why most of my career in newspapers was spent as an office-based sub-editor rather than a reporter ‘out in the field’ talking to people and getting stories.
But my stroke provided me with a story to tell and a message and if I was going to tell it properly, I was going to have to become a public speaker. So I went to workshops run by accomplished public speakers who I knew and trusted (Brad Burton and Taz Thornton, this is your fault…), overcame my natural reticence and went out and did it.
One of the first challenges I remember is a task I was set at a workshop run by the above-mentioned Taz. I had to talk for three minutes, without being notified beforehand, about….boiled eggs. It just so happens that Mrs Warrior hates eggs of all descriptions, so I was able to talk about that. Doing so successfully made me realise that if I could talk about that, I could talk about pretty much anything,
Since then, I’ve done hundreds of talks about stroke-awareness, as well as on the workings of the brain and on naturism. Standing in front of big groups of people no longer bothers me and I can talk for hours (or would if the organisers would let me); a remarkable transformation for someone who once had a real hang-up about the sound of their voice.
I’m still well short of being able to command vast fortunes to speak (although if you’re offering……) and I will never forget what another great speaker, Stefan Thomas, once told me - that being a public speaker is like being in a band in that you have to do four million unpaid gigs in someone’s garage before you become an overnight success.
But I achieved another ambition last week by speaking in an unfamiliar environment to a room full of people who largely had never heard of me, didn’t know my story, didn’t know if I was any good. All I knew was that the organiser of this event doesn’t book speakers unless he has confidence that they will hold an audience.
Yes, I was slightly nervous beforehand. I’ve come to understand that if a public speaker isn’t slightly nervous, they get careless and that’s when they dry up, make mistakes, lose the thread, embarrass themselves. But I carried it off successfully, could have talked coherently for at least twice as long as I did and gave the audience something to think about, which is why I do it.
I’ve had to cut back in recent months as my health took a turn for the worse (However much I believe in what I do, I can’t help anyone if I’m dead) but a couple of introductions this week could help me move to another level. And I would say my ability to speak coherently and in an interesting way in public is perhaps the biggest positive to come out of the life-changing event which was my stroke.