Preaching to the Choir, Part 2 (I did it!)

Turning fear into an adventure

In last week’s blog (Preaching to the Choir, Part 1) I let you know about a big fear I have about public speaking, and how I turned it into an adventure by signing up to speak at Burning Man.  I can safely tell you, I did it!

For the two weeks prior, I kept saying to myself I was going to write a better outline (than the one in the previous blog).  I even brought index cards to write on, to have while on stage.  However, in my anxiety about the speech, I never did do “proper” prep.  I went with the notion that I have all I need in my head and heart, and whatever comes out will be just what someone needs to hear.

Signs My Speech Was Real

It was fun to see my name on the Burning Man apps (Time to Burn and iBurn), more fun to see it in print in the official Burning Man guide “What Where When”, and heart-racing to see my name displayed on the board by the stage where I would be speaking!

cover of Burning Man guide where I preached to the choir

Listed in the printed version of the Burning Man guide to all the things to do, the “What When Where” guide!

inside listing and Burning Man ticket

Officially listed! I wondered if anyone would actually read this… after all, I always seem to look at them after I return!

chalkboard showing schedule at Burning Man

There are two stages in the Center Cafe. This one offered “Spoken Word” (for such things as comedy routines I believe) and the Speaker Series.

close up of my listing on the chalkboard where I preached to the choir (Burning Man attendees)

I’m listed on the board under the Speaker Series!

Mental Prep

While many of my campmates and friends knew I was going to speak, I didn’t remind any of them of the time.  For some reason, I preferred speaking to strangers who wouldn’t know if I missed something in my talk.  One of my campmates is a stand-up comedian.  I asked for his advice.  He said to look them in the eyes, and talk as if you’re talking to a friend. 

While on the way to Center Camp Cafe, I imagined no one would show up, yet I would speak anyway.  Digging for my courage, I decided I would imagine a friend sitting in front of me and I would speak to her.

We arrived a few minutes early.  I spoke with Sleepless (that’s the playa name for the woman who coordinated these Burning Man versions of TEDx talks) so she could know a little about me for her introduction.  She was wonderful and helpful to my nerves.  As we were chatting, a woman came up saying she was looking for the Adventure talk.  I was stunned!  She showed up on purpose!  It turned out, the entire seating area was filled with people who wanted to learn what I had to say!

Preaching to the Choir

When I got up on stage, suddenly it was all ok.  I didn’t know exactly what the outcome would be.  I had my Ten Tips written in large type and just riffed off of that.  Taking my sunglasses off, I could look people in the eye.  There were several people who I felt connected to, so it was easy for me to move my sights around the audience (one of those tips I learned years ago, and fortunately felt natural to do).  At the end people asked thoughtful questions, which meant they listened.

My partner recorded the speech on my phone.  I waited until I was home, and rested, before watching it.  The first time my inner critic piped up.  So I shut it off and waited a little more.  When I finally watched myself on stage, I knew I wasn’t perfect.  I knew I wasn’t as prepared as I “should” have been.  The classic tip that the audience doesn’t know what your speech “should” be means it’s okay to be imperfect.  

Preached to the Choir

After I gave the speech, five different people came up to me to talk more about it.  One attendee even let me know I did great – maybe responding more to the fact that I admitted I was scared of public speaking.  Then she went on about how she felt like an Adventurer too!  I was elated with the feeling I impacted people with my view.  It was exciting to know I helped someone shift their life outlook, or guided them to find a way to take the adventure that is Burning Man and bring it into their home life.  While I thought I was preaching to the choir – meaning people who already have an adventurous attitude – I discovered that many people there were just starting their path to a new view on life.

Results from Facing My Fear with Fun

My takeaways?  I am still nervous about public speaking, but I’m starting to think it’s fun.  I know what I’m doing, and I need to remind myself of that.  My desire to share my mission of helping others is bigger than my fear.  Importantly, people want to hear what I have to say and use the information I give them.

Is there a topic you are so passionate about you would dare to speak to a large group of strangers? Let me know in the comments, plus what you think of my Center Cafe Speaker Series talk!

The video of my speech

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  1. Irene

    Congrats, Stacey!
    Cracking speech and cracking outfit xxx

    • Stacey Newman Weldon

      Thanks Irene! At Burning Man you’re encouraged to wear what you feel expresses you. I love all kinds of blue! And that particular piece of blue chainmail is one of my favorites. Hopefully I will be doing more public speaking!


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