The past few days have been a whirlwind of excitement. Being at the conference, surrounded by fellow amputees, was both comforting and empowering. I was fascinated by the various prosthetics that are being utilized, and I was amazed by the spirit of so many whom I met.
Friday morning I was approached and asked if I would be willing to introduce myself to the conference attendees on Saturday. I was apprehensive about speaking in front of the large crowd, but honored that I was asked. I accepted the invitation.
Friday afternoon I learned that my "introduction" was, in fact, a full blown 20 minute speech. My apprehension turned into fear. I am not a public speaker, and I don't feel comfortable in front of large crowds.
On my way out of the booth on Friday, I was reminded that Saturday was the Mobility Clinic, and that I should dress appropriately. I was given a Stay-Dri work-out shirt and told to wear athletic shorts. I took the shirt and headed up to my hotel room. Tired from a day of standing around in the booth, I was looking forward to relaxing and working on my speech.
Holding the shirt in the elevator, I began to think about what "work-out" type clothes I had packed. I realized I was going to need to walk to the shopping center and buy appropriate shorts. I was beginning to feel rushed for time because I still needed to write my speech, and I didn't want to devote a lot of time to trying to find a pair of spandex shorts that I will probably not wear much.
It was at that moment that I made the connection. I was expected to deliver a 20 minute speech, which had yet to be written, to several hundred people while I was wearing spandex shorts. My fear morphed into full blown terror.
Luckily my friend Leslie and I found a sporting goods store near the hotel and we set out on Mission Impossible. I needed to find a pair of spandex shorts that would flatter my plump bum and minimize my jiggly thighs. With limited options and a short time schedule, I had to settle for the least unflattering option- a pair of gray yoga pants.
My mom helped me gather my thoughts for the speech. We decided that, if the speech was taken from my own blog posts, it would be easier for me to remember. I began to feel more confident about the content of my speech, but nothing was going to make me feel secure in what I was going to be wearing!
I worked the registration desk Saturday morning which helped to keep my mind off the speech. My nerves were jumping in anticipation of my presentation, but I tried to remain calm. When it was my time to speak, I put on my best "I'm confident" game face, strutted up wearing my spandex and accepted the microphone.
Honestly, I can't tell you what I said, but I do know that it wasn't anything that I had prepared. I spoke from the heart, relaying my experiences as an amputee. (I do remember plugging amputeemommy.com once.) As I began to speak, my nerves melted away and I felt as if I were just speaking to a friend or two. I felt connected to the audience. I was no longer fearful, nor was I self-conscious in my less than flattering outfit. I even received four episodes of "spontaneous" applause during my speech!
I received numerous accolades at the conclusion of my speech. Attendees frequently approached me for the remainder of the conference, telling me that they related to my story and appreciated my sharing the experiences. I was encouraged by several people to continue speaking, stating that they felt that I had a talent for reaching people.
For me, the ACA Conference was a success. I thoroughly enjoyed working the booth and meeting amputees from all over the country. I not only delivered a speech to a large audience while wearing spandex, but my words were well received! I am returning home jet lagged and tired but excited to tackle the adventures that lie ahead.