I’m Finally Ready to Talk About What Happened in Tokyo
So as you may or may not know, I recently spent some time in Japan. Before my trip, I was approached by the American Chamber of Commerce in Tokyo to come and speak to their members. This was not the reason for my trip, but one of my fabulous readers, Susanne (who works for the ACCJ), invited me to come to one of their luncheons when she found out I was going to be out there. So of course, being that it was an amazing opportunity, I jumped on it.
I got to choose the topic for my presentation and I picked personal branding through social media, an area that I am super passionate about and super comfortable speaking on. In fact, the title of my event was The Power of You: Why Everyone Can Benefit from Building a Personal Brand Through Social Media. Now, if you’ve ever seen me speak, you know I am anything but traditional. I never have a speech prepared, I don’t use note cards, and I sure as hell don’t memorize anything. I am very comfortable talking to almost anyone, and I have found the best way for me to get my point across and connect with my audience is when I speak from my heart. However, because this event was a little bit more corporate, and in a brand new space I was totally unfamiliar with, I convinced myself I needed to put together a Powerpoint; you know, the full shebang.
That was probably mistake #1. It’s fine to get out of your comfort zone, but always, always, listen to your gut. And my gut hates Powerpoints.
But regardless, I showed up on a sunny Thursday afternoon at the Place of Tokyo, an absolutely stunning banquet hall with a breathtaking view of the Tokyo Tower, ready to take on the day and crush my presentation. Although I felt confident up to that point, I started to feel nervous a few minutes into being in the space. As the members filed in, I could feel myself getting more and more anxious. Was I cut out for this? Was this the right audience for me? They’re in business suits! I don’t do business suits! The negative chatter flooded my brain and as much as I tried to stop it, I couldn’t help but feel progressively freaked out as the lunch entrees began coming out from the back. I knew that as soon as those coffees were on the table, I was up.
After a wonderful introduction from Susanne, it was my turn to take the stage. I immediately began connecting with the crowd, speaking off the cuff and chatting about how much this trip meant to me and how excited I was to be there, one year after quitting my full-time job at MTV. Everyone seemed pleased and I felt a little calmer.
Until I had to start operating my laptop.
The moment I started clicking through my slides, I lost it. My voice began shaking, I started to sweat, and a wave of panic rushed over my entire body. I stared blankly at my Powerpoint, not knowing what the hell to say next. I quickly looked at my slides on the projector, then back at my laptop. I totally blanked.
By this point, my voice continued to quiver. I repeated myself a few times, and then the next thing I knew, the entire room started to spin. My vision got blurry and one of the very kind members appeared beside me with a glass of water. I think that was the “point of no return” moment where I knew in my heart that I had royally fucked up.
It was my worst nightmare coming true.
I fucked up my first-ever international speaking gig. In Tokyo.
I’ve talked about my anxiety a few times in the past, most notably in my books, but in my mind, it was something I had conquered. I hadn’t endured a full-blown panic attack in nearly 10 years. My mind has become so strong that even when I feel myself getting nervous, I can usually take a few deep breaths and get centered. Not this time.
I somehow salvaged the presentation by first making a joke about my nervousness to lighten the room, and thank God I got a few laughs, and then by continuing on, shaky voice and all. I pulled myself together and got through it. In fact, when I watch the video on my phone, it’s not nearly as bad as it felt to me, but it still was not my most stellar performance. And it took me nearly 2 weeks to even be able to address it with you ladies and share this story.
Oddly enough, after my talk, the members were lining up to me telling me how much they loved the presentation and that I was the most authentic speaker they’ve ever had. The kindness helped, but I was still rocked to the core.
Who knows what brought on the anxiety. Jet lag? Maybe. Being too far out of my comfort zone? Perhaps. I’ll never really know. But I knew I had to talk about it.
The reason I’m sharing this is because a) I am always real, and I will never sugarcoat anything to make myself look good, and b) Because no matter what happens to us in life, we must keep going.
3 days after I landed back in New York City, I had my Girl Code book signing. There I was again, in front of a room full of people, about to speak. I could let Tokyo get in my head and destroy me, or I could stand up there, take a sip of my champagne, and move on.
I think you know what I chose to do.
Ironically, I took the day after my book signing off and stayed home to relax, and THIS episode of Sex & The City was on. It was truly perfect timing, and I bawled as I watched it.
As Carrie says, when real people fall down in life, they get right back up and keep walking.
I hope that my story inspires you to keep walking.