When I first moved here, word spread like wildfire: A dietitian is on island! And I was quickly asked to help out with numerous projects. And it has been so much fun! There was the public school student recipe contest judging; then there was the Eco Fair booth about Super Powers in foods; then I got so speak at a few “Pocket Meetings” in villages around the island to promote healthy eating; I was blessed with an opportunity with the public schools to help with their kitchen bids – which earned me a free trip to a nearby island; and most recently, I got to speak at a Conference about foods that heal.
When I was first invited to speak, I was hesitant. The pocket meetings are normally about 10-15 people – not too terribly frightening. So I asked how many people they expected. “Oh, we invite about 100 people.”
Uh… er…. The pulse begins to speed up a little…
“Oh, but there are two sessions at the same time, so maybe half will go to you, half to the other session.”
Pulse slows a bit – 50 people is still scary, but maybe I can do that.
Then I talk to another woman about the conference. “Yeah, they invite 100… but who knows if they all come. Maybe half will show up?”
Ahhh, ok, down to about 25 people. Much better!
The conference is held at a Resort on the beautiful white sandy beaches of the island. I am envisioning a little conference room with a few desks set up, small white-board and projector at the front, right? I get to the hotel to look for my assigned location…
I find the sign for the room. It’s a large banquet hall. That could hold easily over 100 people.
And it’s full.
I about have a panic attack.
My lecture is right after lunch, so everyone is milling about snacking on their food, as I get my stuff set up. My mouth is dry, my heart is racing, and I keep thinking about the words in an email message from a friend who is also trying to do more public speaking: “I must say you have some wonderful goals! Speaking to health care workers and instructing them on nutrition is a noble goal and I’d also love to see you reach that dream! It’s good that you aren’t letting your fears hold you back!”
Right… not letting my fears hold me back, ok, get a grip, girl!
So I take a few deep breathes, focus, and try to remember that this IS a step towards my larger goals. That I want to do this! And I slowly begin to settle. Lunch begins to wind down, and one of the coordinators of the conference reminds people of the time, saying if they are staying for the Nutrition lecture, to have a seat, but if they are planning to attend the concurrent session, to make their way to another Hall.
And half the people leave.
A part of me is SO grateful that the room has emptied some. But I have to admit, a large part of me became like an pouting child! “Why are you leaving!? What’s wrong with my lecture? How dare you not want to pay attention to me!”
It wasn’t the best lecture I’ve given – far from it. I have much to learn, and much confidence to build still. But I did it, and I know that it will get a little easier and a little more natural each time. Oh, and trying to hold a microphone when I had practiced and created the lecture with anticipation of two free hands to use for demonstrations… yeah, that made it even more awkward. Note to self; have back up plan if hands have to be busy!
But I faced my fears, and even if I get a little scuffed in the process, I will come out stronger on the other side.