In February I had the honor of emceeing the annual Austin Women’s Leadership Summit at the Omni Hotel in downtown Austin, TX.

The event brings together a powerful collection of many female leaders from the region. With a packed room of dynamic innovators and progressive minds, I was treated to a full day of ‘next level’.

I’d like to focus on two aspects of my experience with this event. The first being my preparation for this particular public speaking opportunity. The second, how pleasantly surprised I was by the vibe.

I had about two months lead time to prepare for the event. I began by frequent visualizations of myself speaking in front of 150-200 attendees (projected numbers). I ran various scenarios, trying out a range of messages. This visualization exercise comprised most of my prep time leading up to the final week before showtime.

Then, seven days out I began penning show notes; what, specifically, I thought I might say. Once given the official “run of show” (agenda) I tightened that script a couple of days before the event.

Then, something interesting happened.

As I commenced with repeated readings and the beginnings of memorization (with a possible intention to keep bulleted notes nearby), I kept getting this impulse to ditch the script…entirely.

This impulse took me down a rather funny little path the night before the summit. The conversation with my inner, all-knowing voice, the one in charge of identifying the thing or things that make me glow, my North Star, my gut, my Easy (the one that I encourage my clients to practice listening to more and more) went something like this:

Me: “Are you serious? You want me to stand up in front of 150-200 people with nothing? No memorized anything?

My Easy: “That’s right.”

Me: “That seems a bit cheeky. You’re suggesting I waltz up in front of that not-so-small group of high performing professionals and just wing it?!?!”

My Easy: “Yes.”

[Brief interlude where I dismissed the voice and began feverishly memorizing my script. My Easy proceeded to get louder and louder, almost irate with its insistence that I not only purposely leave my printed notes at home but delete the same script on my iPad.]

Me: (switching to bargaining mode because the rote memorization wasn’t going well) “Do you think maybe you might just be lazy? Like you’re just deep down unwilling to put in the work to memorize your script like every self-respecting public speaking guru and Ted-talker under the sun would do? You think these well formed statutes and best practices can just be swept under the rug and I’ll just miraculously do fine going completely off-the-cuff?” What if I were preparing to stand up in front of 1,000 or 25,000 people? What then, oh Wise One?!”

My Easy: “Look. Simmer down. I’m talking about t-o-m-o-r-r-o-w. Just tomorrow. Just stand in front of that group of badasses and be yourself. Speak from your heart. Be authentic. This is the very thing you love and live by. What makes you think you won’t have every word you need inside of you the very second you need it?”

Me: (a not-especially long pause, but a pause, nonetheless) “OK.”

And the most blissful wave of relief, confidence, and assurance washed over me. I had honored my authenticity, my EASY. This is INVINCIBLE. INVINCIBLE is a feeling, and INVINCIBLE is EASY.

Now, as relates to the vibe of the event, I had been very curious about the degree to which that room, that power center, would gravitate to angry talking points regarding the patriarchy, gender-inequality, and just man-bashing in general. I don’t subscribe to this particular vibe.
Curiosity satisfied. Every topic of conversation was met with purposeful, progressive, and actionable advice for each other to move forward into a future where women spend less time fighting for a space at the table and more time collaborating as we all – all – rewrite the menu.

Stand by – the audio for this event will appear here ASAP:)

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