Public Speaking: Just say no

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My twin sister and I were recently asked to speak to a women’s group. We are a little rusty because we’ve actively avoided being at the front of a non-GTWoman event for about a year now. It’s not that we don’t like it. It’s just that it always plays out like this:

The excitement

When anyone asks us to speak we immediately feel like Abraham Lincoln: a great orator who ultimately met his demise at an event. We are excited, we are nervous. We want to do it, we hate to do it. We go through a week of yes/no/yes/no before deciding, yes. It will be fun, right?

The prep

We would have to dust off our presentation notes. We had a few in the file to fall back on. However, when we pulled them out, we found that, in a fit of confidence, we had written them all in shorthand. On closer inspection, it might have been Sanskrit. Regardless, we had no clue what the hell we talked about that last time at NMC.

Our only hope was to start over. At this point one of us hissed, “We should have said, No!”

The drive

We had two months to come up with a new presentation or to learn Sanskrit, but we decided instead to compose our talk in the car en route to the event. We had an hour to come up with a 30-minute presentation. Failproof!

Wrong. We spent the first 15 minutes of the ride agreeing we would never speak to a group again, ever. We were antsy, sweaty and mean. The windows were down and our hair was a mess. Kerry had bought nylons and ripped them getting in the car. I had told her that pantyhose were no longer in style. Kerry said she had to hide a bruise from the bonfire we’d just had (see, very, very busy). It was tense. The car was filled with two sisters who were completely unprepared and nearly uncivilized.

Then, a small miracle. Kerry asked, “Remember that time we did the ‘Mom Mafia’?”

The talk

That’s when the tension broke in the car. We started giggling. Ten years ago we had put four kids in my minivan and driven around Traverse City collecting overdue bills for GTWoman. If a client refused to pay the bill, we threatened to leave the children. It was a success! No one wanted our children.

We realized we had over 10 years of business savvy to scroll through along with 20 years of mistakes crammed into them. Yes, we had stories to tell; we had wisdom to impart; we had a presentation waiting to be written.

But, first, insert a wasted 15 minutes of hooting over all the old stories. Memory lane competed with driving directions being barked by Siri.

Then another 15 minutes passed while Kerry navigated US-31 like a pro and I sketched out a solid four points with which to impress the ladies.

The arrival

Then came the last 15 minutes of sheer terror. We were almost there! We had not practiced and we were too busy panicking to do anything about it. We were goners. They would find out we were nothing more than two sisters with a mafia record.

Again, one of us hissed, “We should have said, No!”

We pulled into the parking lot. Straight off someone recognized “the twins” and waved to us. We couldn’t just sit there and hope for a natural disaster. We had to get out and say hello, heads held high, clutching a clipboard with a Sanskrit presentation that had been demolished with an eraser.

The event

Come to find out, the event had a hat theme. Hatless, this immediately marked us out as further fools.

“I left my camo hat at home,” I told the hostess.

We sat through dinner, awaiting the slaughter. But then it happened. Another woman walked in and she was in fact wearing a camo safari hat about the size of the rings around Saturn. It was clear this woman had snatched a hat from her husband’s closet on the way out the door. She was as unprepared as us. We were with our kind. 

From there, things flowed like (and with) wine. We got up to do our presentation and, before we knew it, we’d ditched our clipboard altogether. We took questions and we actually had answers. We laughed, we cried. It was going and it was going well. Before we knew it, we were back in the car on the way home.

And it sounded like this: “That was so fun, we HAVE to do it again!”

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