Revelations On Main Stage Speaking

Ever wondered what it’s like under the big spotlight of a mainstage?

Most of my career I dreamed of being the “big shot” on stage speaking at a conference of my peers. Now that I’ve done it, I wanted to share the funny reality. This year I shared the stage with our incredible new VP John Healy, and prepping him for the experience really helped me boil down my insights and advice into a few frankly hilarious points. I thought it might be fun to share these with you too:

  • I never actually remember my first five to ten minutes up on stage. My nerves are buzzing so loudly that I don’t regain consciousness until about minute 10. Be clear I’m 1/3 done by then and usually find myself hovering around slide four. YIKES! Buckle up, time to roll. . .
  • Putting together the deck takes about two months. Seriously. It starts with a few ideas of how to add the most value. Then there’s the hook: how do I make it fun? One year I sang (yeah, I’m a really bad singer), another year was live polling, and this year we filled the deck with Memes. OMG there are hilarious sales memes out there, but the idea was born drinking with the neighbors and playing “What the Meme?” – a fun game. Check it out! The deck forms about 2 weeks out and the final week is full of run-throughs and boiling down the most important points.
  • During these last two weeks, I dream about the talk almost nightly. At least half of these I wake up with new ideas or insights. These get scribbled in the dark on whatever scrap my hands find in the dark. I actually make sense out of less than 35% of these come morning. But, I’m learning that sometimes this is the good stuff and I need to trust the process.  Here’s a great recent example:
    Midnight Brainstorming
  • Run through number 1 is always at least 2-3 x as long as the allotted time. Apparently I’m a talker. But you knew this.
    There’s nothing better than an audience laughing where you intended for them to laugh. Sweating bullets waiting for them to read the slide and then get the joke is like time standing still.
  • Sharing the stage is SO MUCH better! Healy and I had a blast up there. People told us afterward that it didn’t seem rehearsed. Yeah, we didn’t have the same practice session twice. Different stories, different jokes, different screw ups. This year I nearly fell down on stage. Yeah, I’m a smooth operator.
  • Wait, there is something better than getting laughs. It’s the throng of people who line up to talk to you after the talk. You guys? When strangers want to tell you you’re fabulous it feels really, really awesome. Is that awful? Because I really really love it. This year I got to watch John experience it for the first time. Made it even better. But then I had to tell him this:
  • The fame dies quickly and predictably. On speaking day it’s actually hard to get to the bathroom because everyone wants a minute. Let’s be clear, its so good I contemplate just wearing the Depends so I don’t have to miss a moment! Ha ha! But by day two the line disappears. By day three? Total nobody. I even see the recognition in their faces while they look away and think about their new favorite main stage rock star. Oh to be fresh and loved like day one again! And that is exactly when I start planning for next year.

Hope to see you all there!