When a Crying Crowd is a Compliment

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Just wanted to share a recent public speaking experience that took me by surprise.

I delivered my first speech for Alzheimer’s Australia yesterday and was blown away by the reaction. Being on stage with one of the leading international dementia speakers in the world on her Australian tour was simply awesome. Gill Ayling (also known as the ‘Grand Poobah’ of Dementia) was simply a nice person who is ‘pint sized’ but making global change in the dementia world.

Prior to the event starting I was sitting on stage chatting to another speaker called Ian who gave me some speaking advice. He said ” When you get up to speak, you are in charge”. He is a former Police Sergeant who now has dementia and has been presenting for years for Alzheimers Australia. I found his advice very ‘copper like’, and too forceful for my speaking style, but I took it on board regardless.

I was extremely nervous beforehand (after some recent shaky and forgettable public talks), and simply could not settle beforehand. I guzzled a litre bottle of water prior to the gig, and I was pacing as per usual, but in my head this was my ‘Grand Final’ and I had to deliver.

But in some ways this speech was different….

I stopped worrying about remembering the words and just spoke from the heart and let the passion take over.

The video cameras and microphones felt like they were everywhere, but there were only three. Even after 30 years of being on stage in bands, some things are still intimidating, but eventually they seemed to disappear into the background.

I wanted to take the audience on our journey with dementia and have them feel like they were in the room with me when I relived challenging times.

The audience laughed, cried, and even became angry….but in a good way. The energy in the room was silent, but intense..also in a good way.

The mood kept shifting as I changed topics, yet I felt they were on my side.

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t the most polished speech, but the raw emotion and passion cut through and the words came. (phew) This speech was therapeutic for me and was a release of 3 years of life changing material, uncorked!.

It was a strange feeling when I got angry on stage and explained some of the rough treatment Dad received on his journey. The crowd concurred and applauded mid speech. ( I was gobsmacked)

I could see shiny eyes on me which is a strange feeling when you have no idea who is judging you. Is weird to bare your soul in front of strangers but it certainly stirs the adrenaline.

When I sat down ‘completely cooked’ , Ian leaned over to me and said ” You just owned the room my friend”

….Mind blown! ( and humbled)

After the panel speech I met a few emotional ladies. As I shook their hands to meet them and hear their stories, I handed them a tissue from a conveniently placed tissue-box on stage. ( this must happen often at these events!:-))

It was awesome to receive positive emails, facebook posts and phonecalls ( plus a free lunch:-)) after the event.

A tough rollercoaster experience but a solid platform to build on.

My mission has only just started…

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