My Curious Lack of Anxiety in Public Speaking

Call it karmic balance, a divine gift, the long-odds of genetic mutations, or whatever else you may like: for unknown reasons, I do not get nervous speaking in public.

Recently, I had the honor and privilege of speaking to several hundred of my fellow officials during the Referee Voices session at the 37th annual NASO Officiating Summit in Spokane, WA. To stretch my abilities I committed to speaking without any notes. Over a period of two months, I wrote my talk and edited it down to eleven minutes. Some last minute scheduling adjustments granted me an extra three minutes so I felt confident I could hit my timing.

In past talks, I could riff on general themes or rely on the structure of a PowerPoint deck. This presentation was different. Inspired by Andrew Solomon’s Ted Talks, I wanted to craft a memorable speech, and with an eleven minute restriction I needed to change my usual strategy. Typically, I had at least forty-five minutes to a full hour to unpack a scenario or a particular technique. This time, I had to find ways to pack significant material into an insignificant amount of time. Mr. Solomon’s talks stuck with me due to his command of the English language, his timing, and his commitment to know his material inside and out before sharing with others.

I was not nervous to be on a stage under the lights and the stares of several hundred sets of eyes. I was nervous about forgetting my lines. This new endeavor required a different form of preparation and the deepening of a recall skill unique to orators.

Once happy with my speech, I broke it into chunks and then I scattered those chunks around my basement apartment like so:

  • Descend basement stairs - introduction

  • Coffee bar with Lacrosse Magazine and Referee Magazine - my story and tie into officiating

  • Donkey Kong machine with Marcel Prouste sitting on It - my mental illness superpowers and a quote by Prouste

  • Desk with my NASO membership card - connect my story with the summit theme of “Training in Transition”

  • My yoga mat in my bedroom - walk the audience through a visualization exercise and cartoon voice replacement technique

  • Reading nook occupied by Vincent van Gogh - conclusion and quote by van Gogh

Though my body was on the stage in the marvelous Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane, my mind took a walk through my apartment. There was no way I could possibly forget my lines because I had woven my speech into the very fabric of my living space!

I was grateful to be limited to eleven minutes; I am not yet ready to speak for thirty minutes or an hour with no notes or visual accompaniments. One day, I think I could. Other than this new manner of preparation, I stuck with my pre-speaking routine in every other respect.

  • Relaxed to some good music

  • Did some light exercise of 40-50 burpees

  • Performed a round of Wim Hof power breathing

  • Showered with freezing water for several minutes

  • Meditated

  • Held a headstand for 30-seconds

  • Ironed my shirt

  • Put on my speaking attire: wingtips, slacks, button-down shirt, vest, lapel pin

By the time I took the elevatory down to the lobby I was ready, but more importantly, I FELT ready. By putting myself in a position to perform well and maintaining my routine, I was able to banish any remaining fears to the periphery of my consciousness.

All that was left was to step under the lights and talk.

Note - I will share the recording of my speech and that of my fellow co-speakers once I receive it from the NASO.