On April 9th, less than a month earlier, I delivered a personal worst. Speaking for a private women’s group, I pulled myself together as best as I could. I was resting on my laurels, beyond exhausted, and crossing my fingers for good luck. My heart was torn and I rallied myself to be there. The audience response? They brought out the proverbial cane… I’ve never been so embarrassed.

No wonder people have fear of public speaking. I had lived out the very thing people fear the most, putting their foot in their mouth in front of an audience.

Embarrassment, the quickest way to tarnish your reputation.

Embarrassment, the quickest way to learn valuable lessons.

Valuable Lesson #1: Reschedule

I am the Queen of preparation. It’s my biggest strength. It’s what I live by and teach.

Due to my sandwich generation lifestyle, I had been putting out one emergency after another between my dementia ridden mother and my son who has been trying to fly the coop just a little too soon.

I wasn’t prepared and I knew it. I should have rescheduled. It would have been the lesser of the two evils.

Valuable Lesson #2: Learn How to Tell if Your Cortisol Level is Too High and Manage the Stress

I am the Queen of self-care. It’s my biggest strength. It’s what I live by and teach. Especially on how to reduce stress when your fight or flight response is triggered.

Due to my sandwich generation lifestyle, I was priding myself on the word “AND”. I can take care of my family AND continue on my career path. My cortisol level achieved heights that I had never experienced before – but I didn’t know it.

I felt like one of those Bozo the Clown punching bags. I kept getting smacked down but I made it my mantra to always come back up smiling and on my career path.

Now I know that the first place I feel too much cortisol, oddly enough, is in my upper arms. Then I hear it in the tone of my voice followed by feeling detached from life. I’ve only reached this level once since my April 9th peak. The good news is that now I can identify it and rectify it.

I was blind to the effects of too much cortisol. It kept me from being present – one of the most important qualities of being credible in front of an audience. Now that I know, I have found a way to include more rest and more fun to manage the stress.

Valuable Lesson #3: Get Feedback

I am the Queen of feedback. It’s my biggest strength. It’s what I live by and teach. I know that you look in the mirror to check on your hair and see if you’ve got spinach in your teeth. I know that getting feedback is how you look in the mirror as a Speaker.

Due to my sandwich generation lifestyle, I chose to skip this step for this particular Speaking engagement.

I would never have stuck my foot in my mouth if I had taken the time to get feedback. Note to self: Get feedback…always!

The never ending quest to spare embarrassment continues.

Was this the first time I embarrassed myself? NO.

I’ve built my reputation using my presentation skills for two different careers. I built my presentation skills from the accumulation of all the mini embarrassments along the way. As horrible as embarrassment is, I have found it to be one of the quickest course corrections ever invented. I have a hate/love relationship with embarrassment.

Embarrassment for many is a risk not worth taking. It’s why people don’t put themselves out there. It’s why people who are worried about blowing a big opportunity, are short on time and don’t know where to start, hire me.

Because I do take the risk of embarrassment, and have learned many lessons along the way, I now use those lessons to empower others to avoid embarrassment and achieve a personal best of their own.

Here’s what happened between April 9th (my worst) and May 7th (my best):

On April 12th, one hour before I had to leave for a Speaking engagement, I received a call notifying me that my Mom was unconscious and on her way to the ER. Being her Power of Attorney and the only one of her children in town, I cancelled my Speaking engagement.

Between April 20th – 25th, three clients delivered their personal best! Two of them successfully delivered vulnerable speeches in front of an audience of 1,400 and enjoyed an inspirational high following. One of them pitched their Startup for investor funding. Despite being way out of her comfort zone, she rocked.

On April 27th, I coached a group of Startups pitching in front of an audience. This event was held a 2 ½ hour drive from my home. Halfway between is a beautiful resort with hot springs. I made it a priority to do nothing that day other than soak in the hot springs and speak at the event. Previously I would have worked up until the time I needed to get into the car.

On May 7th, I delivered my personal best ever. Not only did I achieve a new level, but I set a new standard for myself. A new standard that I am unwilling to compromise on. I used a no stone unturned approach to my preparation which included video practice, my old tried and true fight or flight release techniques, audience feedback, extra rest, and my new found cortisol release activities: a facial and a massage.

Knowing that I’ll always take care of my family and knowing that I’ll always be on my career path means that I need to make choices based on changing needs. Now I know what circumstances indicate that I should re-schedule or cancel. Now I know that my self-care needs have changed. Now I know to rely on my old tried and true but to amend along the way.

Why I love geeking out on Peak Performance, Speaking & Presentation Skills is still a mystery to me. We all know the saying “it’s about the journey…” and I suppose that I geek out on these because it is my journey.

What I do know is the lessons from my journey become the stories of future speeches. They are what drives me to share vulnerably and support others to spare embarrassment and confidently rock the “stages” of their lives.