Yesterday I gave a two-hour workshop after only two hours of sleep. I'm sure you know the feeling... lying in bed hour after hour, getting more and more frustrated and panicked as the time you have to get up approaches.
I finally got up at 6:15 for my 8:15 workshop, feeling crummy, but off I went. One thing I've learned over my many years of speaking and before that, performing: The show must go on! You suck it up and give the audience your all.
This post was inspired by my Twitter friend, paramedic, speaker and trainer Greg Friese, who asked if I told the audience, and how do I feel, in general, about such qualifying statements. In conversation with the organizer, I mentioned my lack of sleep, but did I tell the audience? No way!
Like many other apologies or qualifying statements speakers make ("I'm sorry, I'm very nervous" or "I apologize, I have a cold" or "I didn't have much time to prepare"), telling the audience your problems does the following:
1) It points out something they probably never would have noticed. Now they're alerted to your problem and looking for mistakes.
2) In the case of "I didn't have time to prepare"-type statements, it makes them wonder why they should bother listening to you when you didn't have the courtesy to prepare properly for them.
3) You're making it all about you! Personal stories are great if they're relevant to the presentaion, but the audience doesn't care if you're sick or tired or your mother is in the hospital. I'm not saying the audience is heartless, but they're there for information, for inspiration, for instruction. They are taking time away from other things and possibly giving you their hard-earned money to hear what you have to say. And what you have to say should not be "I didn't get enough sleep last night, so forgive me if my brain isn't fully functioning."
I've spoken while sick, while my cat was dying, while suffering a panic attack. I've spoken when tired, when my heart just wasn't in it, and when the audience didn't even want to be there.
I'm one of those lucky people who has endless stores of energy just for times like these. I also have learned how to compartmentalize. You never would have known I had a sleepless night, and the audience didn't have to know. When I got home, I crashed for an hour and then got back into my day.