Hot towels are a luxury for anyone flying in business class. For a nursing mom suffering from engorgement, on her way back from yet another speaking event, they’re more of an in-bra necessity.
In perhaps the most awkward conversation I've ever had with my speaker’s bureau, shortly after having my son in 2009, I had to delicately explain to them that three keynotes in three different cities in three days (without a pit stop at home) would lead to a pretty, ahem, leaky situation.
To be honest, I don’t think I was all that delicate. In fact, as I flip through old emails, the last one I wrote to them regarding this topic reads, “I won’t be able to get rid of milk and I’ll be on stage like a soppy cow!” Subtle.
When you’re up there on stage, you’re the only one piloting the plane; there is no co-pilot to your right and there are no flight attendants in the rear.
Most people will agree that the fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears in the world. Fear of flying is a close second. While I never had aspirations to do either of these activities on a regular basis (and, in many cases, actively avoided them), for the past seven years I’ve keynoted more than 200 events from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Sidney, Australia, and many places in between.
Despite the obvious additional challenges I faced while I was keynoting pregnant, such as the time the event organizer notified me about the emergency route to the closest hospital “just in case” I went into labour on stage (I assured him that I was just carrying heavy), or the events immediately after having my son when I had to write down audience questions as they said them or I would immediately forget what they asked (thanks to sleep deprivation), public speaking – whether you're male or female – is one of the loneliest jobs in the world. It is also one of the most rewarding.
The money can be exceptional – especially if you reach the point that an agency will sign you, and more importantly, if an agency will book you.
However, paid or not, when you’re up there on stage, you’re the only one piloting the plane; there is no co-pilot to your right and there are no flight attendants in the rear. While you might want to scream "Mayday!" if things get rough, there is never, ever going to be a rescue team waiting for you in the wings.
To combat some of these challenges, I’ve taken a number of approaches over the years.
For starters, early on in my speaking career, I was fortunate to work with Tony Robbins. Watching him backstage as he prepared to coach thousands of people provided me with some excellent insight into how some of the best in the world do this work.
Tony had his own rituals, which included everything from jumping on a mini trampoline before going on stage, to choreographing each event with great music, visuals and slides, to including the audience as part of the overall show.
I know other successful speakers who will only eat certain types of food before keynoting and those who have specific, rigorous pre-event exercise routines. Beyond this type of controlled preparation, a couple of days before I speak, I also like to add at least 5 to 10 new slides to my deck, just to freshen it up and to make sure that I’m actively telling stories about what's happening right now in the digital marketing world.
In summary, what you do before you speak is absolutely as important as what you do while you're speaking.
As for all those things you can’t control during your speaking experience, like leaky boobs on a plane, you must always laugh or you will cry – oh, and it doesn't hurt to hope for hot towels.