Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Shake The Fear Out

I must admit, the first time I ever spoke a show I was frightened beyond belief. 
  Flying the birds helps to quell stagefright_Marz, the Red-tailed Hawk is an old pro
Anyone who has ever performed before an audience knows that that first performance can be terrifying.  I have always had a terrible fear of public speaking.  In fact, I was so scared that before going out onto stage I have to violently shake my arms to “shake the fear out”. 

As Leah Tyndall discussed in her blog post recently, we all have our pre-show rituals that help to calm our nerves.  My arm shaking routine looks very silly and is slightly embarrassing, but when I walk out onto the stage all the fear flies away.  I was so scared for my first show, that for some unexplainable reason I even told the audience.  Thankfully, my audience for that show was terrific and very understanding.  I will always be grateful to them for it. 

I am also very grateful to the rest of the Stone Zoo Bird Show staff for all the support and encouragement they gave me, and frankly, for putting up with me while getting over my fear.  If it wasn't for the two Leahs on our Stone Zoo bird show staff, I would probably still be scared out of my mind when speaking in public. 

Even though I was frightened to be speaking in front of such a large audience, when the first bird comes out it all goes away.  Seeing the look on everyone’s face as the first bird flies over their heads makes me smile and reminds me why I do this.  And as adrenaline starts to rush through my veins, I can’t help but love being out there.  So I guess it’s fair to say that I have a love/hate relationship with public speaking. 
 Even birds get stagefright - just ask Sam, our Augur Buzzard
Sam, our Augur Buzzard, was also afraid of flying in front of a lot of people at first.  Watching Sam get over his fear of flying for a lot of people also helped me get over my fear.  I often thought to myself, “If this bird can be okay with it, I should be, too.”  Eventually Sam became one of our best fliers at the Stone Zoo Show, which always made me push myself harder to really want to be out there speaking for him. 

After the season at Stone Zoo ended and I was back at the sanctuary doing educational programs I had to take the next step for speaking shows--no backstage area where I could do my arm-shaking routine. 

My first encounter doing a WBS show without a backstage was in Kansas City at the Renaissance Faire.  We had a backstage, but we started the show with the speaker in the audience and a blind release of Stetson, a Harris’ Hawk.  This was a little hard for me because I couldn’t “shake the fear out” right before the show.  It did make it a little easier having Stetson there, for he is my favorite bird at the sanctuary.  We both instantly bonded while doing training sessions before the zoo show season started.  So while having him there helped me, I was still frightened before the show and at the start of the show. 

Luckily I had a great crew with me in KC—WBS staff member Trina Whitener and WBS volunteer Linda Tossing.  They were both very supportive of my public speaking jitters, so I want to send a great big thank you to them for all their encouragement. 

My last step in getting over my public speaking fear was recently at Lake of the Ozarks with WBS staff member Mike Zeloski.  There we didn't have any time at all between shows, kind of like a lightning round.  It was fast paced, and I loved it.  We had no backstage at all and no prep time, so there was no chance of “shaking the fear out” before the show.  After my first show I was too preoccupied with getting the next show started on time to really be scared at all. I love doing shows with Mike Z--he has so much knowledge and confidence when he speaks—and I think it transferred over to me a little.

After those three steps, I think and hope it is safe to say that I won’t be needing to “shake the fear out” anymore. 

So thank you to all the people and birds who helped me get over my fear of public speaking.

Submitted by Mike Cerutti, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

No comments: