A colleague of mine specializes in coaching people who give high stakes presentations. While not my specialty, I did have the honor of helping Susan Beallor-Snyder prepare for her own high stakes speech which she delivered this past Saturday afternoon.
Susan’s father, Bob, passed away in August. The memorial service to honor his life was on the 27th, and Susan wanted to share her memories about him. Having never really spoken in public, she was understandably nervous. Addressing 100 friends and family added to the fear. Not that they would be judging her. Anytime you put yourself in front of an audience, it’s a scary proposition.
Susan prepared like crazy. She composed a beautiful collection of related stories that she cherished when thinking about her dad–his passion for food, his love of nature and his gentle spirit. She rehearsed a lot. She had trusted allies actually listen to her give her talk. I was one of the fortunate one who had a sneak preview via skype.com.
Her talk was a huge success. Susan did the most important thing a speaker can do. She was 100% authentic. For the time it took Susan to give her speech, her father came to life for all who were present. I know when a talk connects with me because I get goosebumps, or God-bumps as a friend once called them. I was covered with them throughout Susan’s talk. On one level I felt her love for her father coming through, especially as she was telling the story of how “…my father wouldn’t hurt a fly–REALLY! He had a bug-catcher and would catch the flies in our house and release them outside.” Her stories touched something deep inside me and my body reacted, as bodies do when a sweet truth is told.
And also I got goosebumps because this woman, whom I love and admire, was taking a huge risk and succeeding. I could see her glowing as the audience responded with laughter and applause to her comments. After everyone had spoken and the crowd broke up for refreshments, I went up to Susan to give her a hug and to ask her how it felt. Her huge smile and response said it all. “It felt great!”