Like a Roller Coaster

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Written by: Nando Miranda

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The first time I ever rode a real roller coaster was when I was 8 years old. My parents took my three older siblings and I to Disney World near Kissimmee, Florida, during a road trip from Charleston, South Carolina, to Montgomery, Alabama. We had spent the previous three years at the Panama Canal Zone where my father was stationed. We were oblivious to American television commercials and amusement parks.

Space Mountain was the name of this roller coaster. It still exists to this day. And yes, I was scared out of my shorts, no less. After the anticipation of waiting in line coupled with a great fear of the unknown, my white knuckles gripped the safety bars as the car slowly lurched clackety-clack up the hill, in total darkness!

Space, the Final Frontier.

Countdown!

10-9-8…..

No way to turn back now!

6-5-4…

I’m going to die! I’m going to die!

2-1

BLAST OFF!

Oh my gosh, all I saw was space around me! Stars, galaxies, meteors, comets smothered with a sudden moment of panic as I thought to myself, I can’t see the track!

Not knowing where this coaster was going, I squinted my eyes and focused ahead trying to catch a glimpse of a falling star illuminating any tiny part of the dark track. I tried to figure out how far this first drop was going to last and predict which direction the car would turn next. Not only did the designers of Space Mountain give me the fear of a fast, indoor coaster, but being virtually “blind” during the trip was a cruel, yet welcome, added bonus.

Whenever I prepare a speech for my Toastmasters Club in Helsinki, Finland, called Stadi Talkers, I think about Space Mountain. I have the same chills beforehand, the anticipation, the butterflies in the stomach, the preparation, the self-questioning stage, the point of no return, the out-of-body self-awareness of all eyes on me, including my own. Ridiculous, but true.

I just signed up for speech #7.

10 days out

I have time to prepare.

5 days out

What is my topic? What is my structure?

3 days out

I’m going to die! I’m going to die!

Prepare, practice, then deliver!

Do you know what is the best part of the speech writing process for me? I am the designer. I can map out how I want my audience to experience it. I can also build the introduction and the conclusion to have any effect. But most importantly, I am the creator of twists and turns and drops and hills and varying speeds, of which, the audience has no clue. Of course each audience member may try to figure out what would be said next, some of them perhaps more accurately than others, but they are all essentially — in the dark.

You have to ask yourself.  Which do you enjoy more? Being the roller coaster passenger? Listening to speeches without knowing what is to come? Or do you prefer to create your own roller coaster and let it unfold before the audience as they experience it?

I highly suggest you aim to become an expert in both roles. Learn to be a better listener and practice to become a better public speaker. With both, you’ll need to have your mind and eyes wide open facing your own fears. Regardless of what you try first, you will induce the same feelings of foreboding, anticipation, excitement, butterflies, a sense of relief that it is all over, but above all, you will obtain a sense of accomplishment.

You have survived, you are alive! Now go and build your own Space Mountain!

– Photo of Space Mountain by Nando Miranda. All rights reserved.

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