The President Carter interview…Part II

To read Part I, Click Here!

Part II

Sweat began dripping down my face. My voice shook more than the El in Chicago, going around a curve.


The crowd of eight looked startled, wondering what they could do to help.

Finally, after a couple of minutes of pure agony on everyone’s part, Randy, one of the members stood up and shouted, “Time out!” while making the time out gesture with his hands.

I was relieved.

“Greg, what’s going on?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” I replied. “I’m just a little nervous,” still gasping for air.

“A little?” yelled Mary Ann, the club Vice President. “Greg, you were dying up there. That’s not like you.”

The speech in my head that I had been trying to give had now worked its way to my stomach, causing much unrest. “Okay, I’m really nervous,” I said agonizingly.  “I’ve never spoken in front of so many people and I’m really uptight about it.”

Seeing how important this moment was, Bob suggested we all sit in a circle and forgo the rest of the structured meeting. He then softly looked at me and asked, “Greg, when you got up to the podium, were you seeing in your mind’s eye this group of eight or were you seeing a crowd of people inside Memorial Chapel?”

Initially I thought that was a very odd question…that is until I closed my eyes to see what I was seeing. My body instantly tensed up as the image became more and more clear.


The room wasn’t a chapel at all. It was some kind of arena with rows and rows of people going as far back as I could see; maybe one or two football fields long. It was massive! I saw myself as this little dot up on stage looking out into this unending sea of people. I felt so alone up there…so intimidated…so disconnected.

I shook my head, trying to push the image out of my mind. “Oh my God, I wasn’t even in this room! I wasn’t even in the Chapel…I was in some packed arena.”

Bob nodded. “You weren’t present…with us…in this room…even with yourself. That’s where that alone and disconnected feeling comes from. You weren’t here!”

Now I was nodding.

Ron jumped in. “You are one of the best speakers in this club. What makes you so good is your ability to connect with us during your speeches. Whether it’s your humor or your stories or your eye contact…you have that ability to hook us in immediately.” He paused. “And that didn’t happen this time.”

Mary Ann interrupted. “Greg, you always start your speeches with something funny. How come you didn’t do that for this speech?”

I leaned in. “Mary Ann, actually I do have a couple of funny lines that I plan on using. I just don’t like testing out my jokes ahead of time for some reason.”

“Because they may not be funny?” joked John, another member.

Everyone laughed, as the room felt lighter.

“Timing,” I said. “My jokes have to be fairly unrehearsed in order for them to have that impromptu aspect to them. If I think too much or get feedback on a particular joke, it quickly loses its spontaneity and comes off too contrived.”

“So the jokes should help you get into the grove, but what about calming your nerves beforehand?” asked new member Dawn.

“I have a suggestion that should help,” offered Bob. “Go into Memorial Chapel…today, and go up to the stage and stand behind the podium and look out. Look up in the balcony and image people sitting there. Look to the two sides and see every seat filled. Look to the farthest seat in the back of the room and put a person there. Fill the whole Chapel. Then breathe. Feel the floor…feel the crowd…see President Carter on the side, waiting to come up. Breathe. Then break down the audience a little more. See the faces…both familiar and unfamiliar…the smiles…and feel the energy. Breathe in the energy and see it as your energy.”

Young Woman Meditating on the Floor

I was one big smile at this point. “I got it. This isn’t about my speech and it isn’t about my skills to deliver my speech. It’s all about the image that I conjured up about the audience that’s the problem. I simply don’t know what 1,200 people in the Chapel look like so my mind added a couple 0’s to the equation. “

The group nodded and smiled.

“Bob,” I asked, “Do you mind if I forgo practicing again so I can head out to the Chapel right now?”

Cheers and high five’s broke out as I headed out the door. Nothing else needed to be said. Everyone there knew that this wasn’t about practicing for me. It was about visualizing.

The Chapel

I will always be grateful to Bob for the Chapel suggestion. What I learned after standing on stage and looking out at all the empty seats was how exaggerated my imagination had become. Yet, when you spread out a 1,200-seat facility into a left side, a right side, a middle section, and a balcony, the room gets very small and intimate. In fact, I was amazed at how close every seat was to the stage. Eye contact, even with the farthest person in the room, would be no problem.

Now this is very doable, I thought, as my confidence reemerged. I’m going to knock the ball out of the park!

And I did.


But see for yourself. Simply Click Here (and scroll down) to view my introduction of President Carter.


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