You’re about to present at a conference, and you’re waiting your turn. Your mind is racing with the personal challenges in your life. You try to focus on helping the audience, but it is hard to remain present and keep your mind from drifting back to personal challenges. What do you do?
Have you ever felt depressed or actually had depression and still had to give an inspiring presentation? That is not only challenging; it can also feel inauthentic. When we are on stage, the audience expects us to be uplifting in some form or another.
No one wants to talk about it, and I won’t even venture to guess how often this is the experience in the speaking, presentation, and training world. It is probably much more prevalent than we think. I certainly do not have all the answers, but answers are not the point of this article. The point is to remind my platform brothers and sisters that they are not alone.
Whether your personal challenges are your family, a recent loss, or finances, dealing with them is a real part of what we do. Part of the problem is our own ego. Guilty. We all want to look good on stage. We are supposed to be the experts and have all of the answers. After all, aren’t people supposed to come to us for help? Let it go; you are human. Give what you have, and help people the best you can. Ground yourself, and set your intention. If you meditate, meditate. If you are a person of faith, pray.
If you are a professional speaker, filling live events, webinars, and scheduled bookings are what pay the bills. If you are not filling those, you are not paying the bills. Period.
In 2014 I made a big decision that would change the course of my life. While on a trip through the UK, I realized that new computers did not have a slot drive. No CD or DVD players built-in anymore. Most of my income came from physical product sales. Yikes! After I had this revelation, I went on a quest to find a way to teach people online. Although this seems obvious, there is much effort to convert everything you have into another format. I found a platform that I liked and created my Stage Time University. I was thinking that I could easily be generating the same business income within a year. Well, it has been over two years, and I was not there yet. I was not even halfway back. The bigger challenge was that although my income was cut in half, my expenses were not. That’s a problem that eventually catches up with you.
To compound my problem, I made a couple of big business mistakes that year as well. If you attended our Stage Time Live event that year, you know the content was top-notch. The guest speakers and coaches were brilliant. People who have been attending for years said that it was the best ever. The problem is that great content does not necessarily equal a profitable event.
If you were there, you probably also noticed that attendance was down. My bottom-line expenses for the event were the same last year with twice as many attendees, but I garnered much less income this year. The speakers were awesome, and people loved it; but I lost a great deal of money. It was a painful reminder that I had broken some of my own rules created from promoting past events. I know that I need to promote live events 6 months in advance, but because my focus was elsewhere, I had the registration page up only 2 months out. Bad Darren. Another mistake was assuming that Las Vegas hotels would be more negotiable during the hot summer months. Wrong again. I had thought that a better deal with the hotel would mean a much lower break-even point. Nope. Here is some truth I got in the mail:
So, what does this mean? The truth is I had to borrow money to pay my mortgage that month. I also received a lovely notice from the power company that I was just a few days away from having my power cut. You may not believe me, so I included a screenshot of my actual bill.
Being down and depressed affects us on stage and off stage and affects the people around us as well. People can tell us to pick our chins up, but our feelings can still be down. I’m not a depression expert and can’t say I was ever diagnosed with deep depression, but I feel like I have some experience. I had even been seeing a Christian counselor. There I said it. I admit it. We all need help now and then.
Do you want to know the funny part that makes me laugh? I’m scheduled to speak on Saturday in Las Vegas at a Happiness Conference. LOL. Life’s irony or God’s humor. But think about it. How can you talk about getting unstuck if you’ve never been stuck? Although it may be challenging, I’ll figure out a way to use this experience to help other people. After all, my blood type is B-Positive.
Let me be super clear. I’m down, but I’m not out. My intention in writing this article is not to have you feel bad for me. It is to let you know you are not alone. I have great friends who would do almost anything for me, and they have me covered emotionally and financially. Although my ego made me wait until the last possible minute, I had borrowed money, and now I’m currently on everything. I have kind and generous friends. Although I’m allergic to taking loans from friends, it is better than losing my house or not having AC in the desert. Even though I put on a happy face and loved the Stage Time Live! event, this picture shows how I felt inside at the time.
Here is something you should know. Every professional speaker friend I had confided in let me know their truth. Though I felt bad for their situations, I felt less alone. Everyone told me they had experienced this at one level or another, at one time or another. We have all lost or will lose a close family member or friend. You will still have to speak that month. Several told me they were struggling more than it appeared to the outside world as well. Wow, really? Yup. You and I are not alone. It made me think of some wisdom I got from an acting class I took decades ago. The instructor said, “Be nice to people on your way up because they are the same people you will run into on the way down.”
I know Stella had to get her groove back. You and I will also, even if we feel depressed. This business is not easy, and the climate constantly changes. We all need help, introverts and extroverts alike. We all need community, too. Sometimes I think we get these experiences so we have new fodder for material. I wish we didn’t, but we do! No one wants to learn from a perfect person. I love Patricia Fripp’s definition of a hero. She says,“A hero is an imperfect person striving to be heroic.” Are you?
What can you do about it? When you are feeling down, get help from friends, professionals, or both. Meeting planners don’t need to know about it, but it’s legal to ask for help, meditate and pray. Surround yourself with good people. Call your speaker friends, and ask for help. You may be surprised that they have a story to share that you can relate to. We are human.
That down feeling you have had? Remember it every time you speak. Why? Every time you speak, someone in your audience is dealing with an emotional challenge. Speak to them. Help them. Reach out to them with your heart. There are problems behind those eyes looking at you.
I sincerely hope this article helps you. I hope you know you are not alone. If you have not been bummed out or depressed when you had to speak, you will be at some time. Some of your downs may be lower than others. It’s probably safe to say someone else’s lows are lower than yours. Reach for help, ask for help, and know you are not alone. Maybe it’s easier for people with office jobs to go to work when they are down, but they also do not get the benefit of the speaker’s high when things are going great. We have chosen to be on stage. Remember, your show must go on; and, more importantly, someone in every audience needs you and your story.
Please share on this blog any stories, strategies, or help you can offer from your experiences.
Darren LaCroix, CSP, AS
World Champion of Public Speaking