The microphone greeted me like an angry goose craning its head from atop the wood podium. Beyond it, stark silhouettes of parents in a dark and sweaty St. Brendan’s gymnasium peered up at me.
I sensed they were eager to watch their particular student play their part in the annual Christmas pageant, and that I was just another speed bump in the production. It was a tad overwhelming for this fourth grader.
Poised on the stage behind me were the popular eighth graders playing Joseph, Mary and the wise men, with some younger kids dressed as livestock and a camel. They surrounded a plastic baby Jesus in swaddling clothes.
All I had to do was deliver three short lines – my 30 seconds of anointed fame. It was going to be great because I had rehearsed relentlessly all week.
The spotlight hit me like headlights on a raccoon. I froze.
Pressed my internal mute button.
The entire gym was a still life of anticipation witnessing me quietly implode. Somewhere out in the crowd a man cleared his throat as if to prod me along.
I looked down at my notes to gather myself when it happened: an involuntary “Sheeeez” curled out of me and into the microphone. The audience, to my regret, had heard something entirely different. Following a pause as pregnant as Mary had been, they spontaneously combusted into uproarious laughter.
My mind raced.
What had I just said? What had they THOUGHT I had just said?
I turned toward the manger players with my palms raised and a look of, “What?” Their mouths hung open and their brows drawbridged above eyes that asked: “Did he just say what I think he just said?”
Then it hit me. I had choked in the most important show of the year before God and everyone. And if that wasn’t enough humiliation, I had Frankincensed my collapse with the most inappropriate exclamation ever.
My sneakers made a hasty retreat stage right, and thankfully I was in them.
Tears erupted from me. I was mortified, thinking I had ruined the entire Holiday season for all. I swore off public speaking and to never again place myself in such a precarious position.
But life is funny. It turns out that I was a hit; the most memorable part of the show.
Looking back at that moment, and too many like it throughout my career, I have learned that the most captivating stories reflect the daring goals, honest struggles and exhilarating accomplishments we experience in life.
So now I find myself on stage often, helping people and teams craft and tell compelling stories to nudge the world in any direction they choose. And I would like to do the same for you and your organization.
If you’re interested in learning more about high-performance storytelling, here’s what I can do for you.
Or, I can work on the storytelling prowess of your executive team and/or your internal marketing group. If you’re looking for a quick storytelling fix, visit our site for resources and a downloadable version of our storytelling workbook: http://www.parkandco.com/landing/the-power-of-story/
I believe helping leaders of purpose-driven organizations clarify their stories to amplify their impact and simplify their lives is why God put me on this earth.