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It was the summer of 2008 when I received that first email from Rick Calvert. He was working to put together a Blogging for SEO panel at the second-ever Blogworld. Lee Odden had been tasked with casting it and, somehow, my name came up as a possible speaker. It wasn’t the first time I had ever been asked to speak at an industry conference, but it was the first conference where I wanted to say yes. And that presented a problem.

Or, more accurately, it presented a meltdown. Because at that point in my career no one knew that I stuttered.

My initial reaction was that I wanted to do it. That this was the right opportunity and the right audience. But before I could agree to the panel, I felt it was only right to let both Rick and Lee know about my speech difficulties and to make sure they were comfortable with it. To their credit, neither one of them blinked.

Unfortunately, I did.

I told them I wanted to think it over.

And I really did think it over. I consulted with close friends and colleagues and asked for their advice. Most told me to go for it. That I’d be great. That people could benefit from what I had to share. Two people told me to let it pass. That I wasn’t ready. That I needed to start smaller. That they didn’t think I was ready for the comments that would surely come about the girl who can’t talk.

And because it’s easier to listen to the people who confirm your fears than those who challenge you to break them, I chose not to speak.

Three years later, I still haven’t.

It’s assumed that I haven’t spoken because I’m embarrassed. Or ashamed. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. For me, being ashamed of the voice I was given, something that is so a part of me and that has shaped me, would be a waste of my time. It would also be majorly ridiculous.

My “fear” of speaking was and always has been concern for the audience. As I discussed in a podcast interview a few months ago, I’ve chosen not to speak because I’ve never wanted to be the one that takes away from a conference. I recognize that people are there to learn about marketing or SEO or blogging, they’re not there to be educated about stuttering. My fear was that someone would spend thousands of dollars to attend a conference and then feel disappointed if they weren’t able to comprehend the information I was giving or if it took me longer to say it than it would someone else. So I’ve always opted to step aside, to lets others share, and to save my thoughts for the blog.

But that doesn’t feel right anymore. It doesn’t feel right to keep missing opportunities.

And when I say that, I don’t mean opportunities to become an “expert” or a “leader” or whatever the cool kids are trying to become these days. I’m missing opportunities to connect with people and to do what I love to do more than anything – to tell stories. To start conversations. And to do it with the folks that are asking me to on sites like Twitter or Facebook or at the shows I’ve previously always turned down.

So I’ve made the decision to speak.

Do I have panic attacks just thinking about it? Yes.

Do I know that there will be loud voices angry that I’ve been put on that stage? Yes.

But fear is a pretty shitty reason for not becoming what you could be. And it’s hard to be too scared when you have people like Rick Calvert in your corner. Or Ric Dragon. Or Shane Ketterman. Or any of the people who have been monumental in pushing me toward this decision (and there have been many of you).

In a few months things will come full circle when I speak at BlogWorld on the Content Creation track and then come home to immediately take the stage and present at TedxAlbany. I wish I could tell you that when I present at BlogWorld my stutter will be gone and that I will hit it out of the park. That the audience will leave in tears amazed at my strength and true brilliance. That it will be some kind of defining moment for everyone and that Disney will make a movie about my glorious triumph (I’ve always wanted to be a princess!).

But that’s probably not what’s going to happen.

Because unlike what The King’s Speech tried to tell you, in real life stutterers don’t master their speech in time for the war-time speech. They simply choose to take control of it. It’s my hope that when I speak at BlogWorld and TedxAlbany to share the stories that I have prepared that you’ll find value in them, and that you’ll find that my unique struggles make me more qualified to talk about voice, not less. That’ll you’ll see the content, not the struggle. But if you don’t and if you’d prefer to hear from someone who speaks more fluent, that’s fine too and I completely understand. I don’t mind chatting with the people who do want to listen, regardless of how small that number may be.

I’m sure as both BlogWorld and TedxAlbany come closer I’ll have a lot more to say and share on this topic but the above is a start.

I’m speaking now because I want to start telling stories instead of just writing about them. So that’s what I’m going to do.

21 Responses to “Why I Made The Decision To Speak At BlogWorld”

  1. Ric Dragon

    I am SO HAPPY you’re taking this on. OK, now I’ve got to explain why being SO HAPPY is not out of proportion to what you just wrote: Here goes… I had a mini-epiphany with Sharon Emery’s talks, where she says something about "don’t take my power away." OOF. Hits you in the gut. How all sorts of things we do and say can take other people’s people’s power away. By interrupting a voice, we take power away – but by removing the voice, you take other’s power away too. We can all be such idiots and not know so many things. People get married and don’t know how to listen to one another. We have children, and we don’t know how to listen to them. We meet someone with a stutter, and we don’t know how to listen. None of us are born with this knowledge, but hopefully acquire a bit along the way.When I have a speaking gig, I have a personal mantra I say right before going on, "have fun – let’s go have fun – have fun". So, Lisa B., go have some fun.

    Reply
  2. KristiBug

    I’m so happy you are doing this too! You are standing up and facing your fears, and that tells the rest of us that we can and should do the same thing.

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  3. Don Rhoades

    Thanks for this Lisa. I always need pieces like this to push me out of my shell. Here’s a thought I had while reading: I would rather hear the loud angry voices b/c I’ve been put on that stage than loud angry voice inside my own head for continuing to pass it up.

    Reply
  4. Robin @ Farewell, Stranger

    Good for you. If there are loud voices, they will be voices of ignorance. I would find it particularly powerful to listen to someone who not only has something to say, but who faced her fear in order to say it.

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  5. Mike Merrill

    That’s Great Lisa. I’m planning to make it out to BlogWorld so I’ll definitely be at your session.

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  6. Dave Cynkin

    Lisa,We’re so happy you’re sharing your thoughts aloud at BlogWorld this year. You’ve already hit it out of the park, and I’m already in tears. Thank you.Dave CynkinCo-Founder, Sleep Deprivationist & Thrill SeekerBlogWorld & New Media Expo

    Reply
  7. Dave Taylor

    You go, Lisa! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas. And just a thought: when I see people complaining about a speaker from a conference, it’s either due to an excess of obscenities from the stage or because their ideas are daft or half-baked. I don’t think you’ll have either problem, somehow. 🙂

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  8. Amy Parmenter

    Lisa!!! This is so so wonderful! I cannot believe that ANYONE would be angry that you would be put on stage. It’s just not true. If anything, they will think this person must be really special and have something really important to say. I am excited for you…but even more excited for those who will be in attendance! Your smarts are only outdone by your courage. Thank you for overcoming your fear to share what you know… I’m sure it will be appreciated by all in attendance…and I certainly hope to be among them.Amy Parmenter

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  9. Amy Parmenter

    Lisa!!! This is so so wonderful! I cannot believe that ANYONE would be angry that you would be put on stage. It’s just not true. If anything, they will think this person must be really special and have something really important to say. I am excited for you…but even more excited for those who will be in attendance! Your smarts are only outdone by your courage. Thank you for overcoming your fear to share what you know… I’m sure it will be appreciated by all in attendance…and I certainly hope to be among them.Amy Parmenter

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  10. jeremyvictor

    I admire your courage. The more I read your articles, the more I get to know the person that you are. I look forward to meeting you one day.Maybe at Blog World.

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  11. Dave Fleet

    Way to go, Lisa. Good for you for taking this on, and good for you for writing this inspiring post. I’m sure you’ll rock the presentation!

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  12. DarthGarry

    Lisa,I love reading your blog posts and this one is particularly inspirational. Another great milestone in your life and career.Garry

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  13. Eric Evans

    I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I started this post, but I am thoroughly glad that I did. I am encouraged by your drive and your courage. I know everyone on your track will gain a wealth of knowledge from you.

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  14. SeoSteven

    Oh wow, Lisa! I’m nervous for you! Proud of you, I don’t think I would ever have the courage to do something like this.Good for you!

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  15. kristy

    So basically I just got goose bumps. I am so inspired by your choice Lisa. Looking fear in the face…I love it!! I only wish I could be there to cheer you on!!

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  16. Daniel Dessinger

    I’ve often thought that people who have to overcome something, possibly just the fear of something, have more to offer the world than the people who have it easy. As people, we don’t seem to want to develop or mature beyond the level it takes us to get what we want. I don’t have a speech impediment, but I have a childhood history of social rejection. It shapes things I don’t even see, and it’s something I haven’t publicly come to grips yet. I just may write about it now. It’s probably time.

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  17. BrandAutopsy

    Lisa… as someone who can totally relate, I learned early on that audiences listened more (and learned more) because they thought I had something important to say. Otherwise, why would I risk so much in presenting with a stutter. Enjoy the rush (and challenge) of presenting.

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  18. Marcus Sheridan

    Hi Lisa, I’ve not been to you blog before today but let me just say I’m very, very inspired by your words here. There is a good chance I’ll be at BWLA, and reading your story has made me not want to miss your class for the world. Seriously, huge congrats at kicking fear square in the mid-section. :-)Marcus

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  19. djwaldow

    Dude. "Fear is a pretty shitty reason for not becoming what you could be." <–Bingo.I think what you need to prep for more is my running bear hug. I’ll be coming after you. Watch out. In all seriousness, I’m thrilled for you. I’m not 100% "in" for BWE-LA as I still need to be sure my speaking proposal gets the green light, but … assuming it does, I’ll be in attendance cheering you on – no matter what goes down.Is it corny to say that I’m proud of you?

    Reply

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