RESET: Have you tried turning it off and back on again?
Updated: Apr 7
It happened about 35 minutes into the webinar. Tired of trying to look unaffected by the internet connectivity issues, trying to focus on the web cam lens more than hyper fixating on the box highlighted because I was speaking and wondering if I looked calm, if I looked like I knew what I was talking about, or whether I appeared like an imposter as I so often feel I do.
Am I fidgeting too much?
Can they tell my eyes are jumping around the screen?
Am I slouching too much?
Shit, I look tense
“I think we lost her again.”
I nervously chuckled, thinking the same about myself. As I robotically referenced data on the harm of masking neurodivergence, I continued with the performance of a life time.
In all of my presentations, trainings, lesson plan observations, etc., I’ve measured it’s success, not on the content but on my ability to compose my voice, stay still, make eye contact, to not rhythmically rub my index fingertip along my thumb with whatever hand wasn’t holding my number 1 secret masking tool, a coffee cup that says “No Drama Llama.” If anyone looks too hard for the details, they’ll see the lighthearted humor deflection.
I was awarded points for not saying “um” or “like” or losing my train of thought and being concise with my words. Appearing confident was formulaic with a foundation of simple constructed rules, and confidence ultimately meant credibility. It was simple really. Do these things and no one questions you. Besides, leaders have said far less with more confidence and made impacts beyond measure, so I try to remind myself of this repeatedly, this must be what success looks like.
In high school, I remember being told that public speakers must simply…
Make eye contact.
Speak slowly, but not too slow.
Be concise but diplomatic.
Give details but not too much.
Dress Nice, but not flashy
And don’t forget
We’re asked to connect with our audience as if we weren’t stripped entirely of the means to comfortably relate to the world. So what happens is all of that energy, all of that passion for the topic that brought you in front of the crowd is misplaced, displaced, and then replaced by nerves and memorized sets of rules.
“With all your public speaking and training experience, I just never would have guessed you were autistic"
People like to say this to me as if the rubric for public speaking didn’t use the same criteria I’ve used in everyday conversations. As if I wasn’t consciously using that criteria just to survive that very conversation in which they tell me this.
Autiphany #71: Does that mean there are folks that enter conversations with new people and DON’T use a mental rubric for all those tried and true observed “socially appropriate criterion?”
This wasn’t working for me.
I felt the blood flow back to my legs and the tingling leave my hands when I stood to adjust my laptop. Whatever I was trying so desperately to do, wasn’t working. I closed out the meeting and as I waited for it to reload, I grabbed an old crafting bin in the corner, moved the chair out of the workspace, along with the fidget, and I stood at my computer. I let myself sway and I put my decoy coffee cup out of reach. For the first time in years, I didn’t think about what I was doing with my hands or my fingers.
I looked at Finn, I listened to their voice, and I forgot to worry about which slide was next and whether it was my slide to read or theirs. Suddenly, we were seamlessly waltzing our way through the rest of the presentation with a rhythm that was impossible to miss a beat on.
I wasn’t “presenting” anymore.
I was sharing.