Monday, October 27, 2014

public/private speaking

I have given a lot of talks in my professional life. I've wasted more hours than I like to think about fiddling around with powerpoint. I would say I am fairly comfortable behind the podium. Today, though - today was wildly different.

I am a United Way ambassador for our department. That means that I, along with two colleagues, are trying to drum up donations for our annual United Way campaign. Today we had our kickoff meeting. This means a small group of rather unwilling staff members, sitting in a smallish auditorium. My boss talked for a bit, and then I was to talk about "Why I Give".

I showed a little animation I created. It was just a few slides to show how hard it is to make an impact with small individual giving, but how a group like the United Way can marshal resources and donation at a level that has significant impact.

And then I got personal, off-script. And lost my shit. Like, in tears leaking down my cheeks, lost it. I was trying to talk about giving back. About being a "have" that used to be a "have not". And how thin the margin is between making it and not making it.

It turns out I have no problem speaking about just about anything. Unless it is personal, and something I deeply care about. Then, apparently, I am a quivering sobbing mass of emotion.

A few years ago, I would have been horribly embarrassed. And mad at myself, for blowing it. I felt a little raw, the way you do after you cry. But I also felt okay about it. I'm human, and imperfect and just like everybody else.

What happened afterward was even more eye-opening. I got notes saying I had inspired people to give. A friend said I was brave. A co-worker I don't know well stopped by to hug me, and then to share her own story and cry. It was very moving and very powerful.

And not at all a typical day at the office.

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