In 2013, when I was asked to be a speaker at a charity gala, I was so embarrassed because I was carrying an extra 20 lbs. of weight and still financially struggling at a job I hated, but my life had slightly improved because my children and I were no longer homeless.
From October 2011 until April of 2012, my children and I lived in shelters after losing our home in the recession. While I still felt like a failure, I was hanging on to a more stable life.
The thought of being on stage at a gala terrified me, especially since the gala was held at Sony Headquarters in Los Angeles with prestigious elites in the film industry. I felt like I would either be looked at as trashy or a pity case, and I tried so hard to avoid playing the victim card despite our situation.
All You Have are Words
I wrote one complete draft of the speech, but once I sent it to Upward Bound, it was changed to add plugs to promote the services the shelter provided to residents. The whole point of me speaking was to help them raise money for more families, but I knew if I delivered the speech they plugged with too many facts, I wouldn’t be doing what I called, “hitting the sweet spot.”
With very little time to prepare, I had to give them something different. If the donors attend this event every year, then they are used to hearing these plugs and a standard success story. I realized that on stage, I only have my words and my delivery of them, so I had to give them something that they’ve never heard before.
Speak Differently with your Stage Voice
There’s more to your stage voice than using dramatic effects like speaking louder or annunciating at the right moment.
You’re giving your story, but the audience is feeling your journey and how you lead them through it. I walked them through our pain and our victories in a few short moments to make them feel like they overcame this problem with me. I tapped into their imagination through descriptive details of the most painful yet uplifting moments.
Know how to handle the Stage lights
Stepping on stage, that’s the scariest thing when you can’t see anything else and there’s a stage light right in your face. I learned to make it something that doesn’t blind me but something that leads me so it can help me drown out the crowd.
I never thought that all the training I had before would help me later in the way it did. All my days as a dancer in sequined costumes helped me handle a stage light while doing a double pirouette on my toes. Or when I was on a production set, and being the lowly PA that had to be the stand in or the person that holds the slate, getting used to the lights and all the production that happens behind a stage helped me not only stay calm when things went bad, but also helped me stay kind to all the crew and staff.
That one speech turned into…
Two additional speeches for the National Charity League, which also helped Upward Bound House provide shelter to more families.
Travelling with a seasoned Field Development Training Speaker who also taught me how to give people better tactical training while still using stories.
Working backstage at events, rehearsing speakers ready to speak in front of crowds of 5,000 to 20,000.
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