After my book "Love Is Not Enough" was published, I received many speaking requests. I hadn't done a lot of presentations before and I wasn't exactly thrilled about getting up on a stage and sharing our life. (I've worked in the business though for twenty years and worked with a lot of great speakers.) The first request came from the chief of staff at a mental ward. The hospital that had recently hired her was going through a transformation. Her background was in hospice care, and at her new job she was horrified by how they treated their patients. She wanted to incorporate the caring attitude that she was used to from hospice care. At the hospital, they had recently done a forced injection to a patient, and it had been an awful situation. She had read my book; she knew what I had gone through during the time I was committed and wanted me to come and share my story with the staff. I thought she was brave to change the way things worked on the ward, so even though I was scared to death, I accepted. If I could help the ward attendants, nurses, psychologists, and doctors to understand what a patient goes through and have them change their standard practice, then my fear of public speaking would be a small price to pay.
My lecture was for a small group of only fifteen people (which is much harder than talking to a hundred: a small group is more intimate, and you get much closer to your audience), but the lecture went well. The caregivers were somewhat hostile at first, because they thought I was just going to criticize their way of working, but they softened after hearing my story, and there was a great discussion afterward.
That was my first public speaking engagement. From that day it rolled on, and over the years I have had more than a hundred engagements. I am of course far from perfect, but these days I have a lot more confidence when giving talks. One of my events was for an audience of a thousand people and was broadcast on national television in Sweden. That was a challenge, and I prepared thoroughly for it in advance. I was, of course, very nervous. In situations like that, I calm myself by thinking of what I have that's best, and that is my family. Thinking of my kids gets me grounded and relaxed, because I know that even if I mess up and don't deliver a perfect speech, they don't care. They'll always love me, and that's what's important .
Lecture broadcast on Swedish TV
(Jenny Lexhed also gives inspirational talks on autism and mental health in English.)
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