A couple weeks ago I hit the milestone of 25,000 people spoken to but yesterday I hit another major milestone as I gave my 400th presentation. While I was giving it I thought back to my first bit of presentations which are not part of the 400, perhaps they should be, but thinking back to those I never could have believed everything has turned out the way it has. Anyway, what got me thinking was this; I don't believe I have ever, in any of my blog posts, explained how I became a speaker at all. It wasn't my idea at all and it all happened out of sheer chance.
In 2009, at my 2nd book signing event (this was when my book was just self-published), there was this person who was hanging around the table staring at me. He was there for at least a dozen minutes and eventually he came up to me and flat out said, "I don't think you have Asperger's! How are you interacting with these people if you do?" The question didn't trip me up and I explained my "Alias" concept in great detail along with other experiences and I also, for the first time in my life said, and I still use this line today, "if you see me outside this forum you probably wouldn't recognize me."
The conversation continued on for the rest of the book signing function between times I spoke to others, but this person was in no hurry to leave. As I was speaking to him I didn't know who he was or what his connection to anything regarding the autism spectrum was but eventually he informed me that he was a masters level teaching professor at a local university and that he had become highly interested, after speaking with me, in having me come out to speak to his class each semester. I agreed and then realized I had the least bit of knowledge on public speaking and had no idea what I just signed up for.
A couple months later my dad and I headed to the university and my dad didn't really inform me the purpose of the trip. I knew we were going to meet the professor but I didn't know this would be for a presentation. We had sort of worked on a PowerPoint but now I was being thrust into the arena and there was no turning back.
Was this first unofficial presentation any good? Compared to today I'd have to say no, but I actually don't remember the response afterwards. In fact, the two or three times I presented there are just a blur. It is such a blur I don't remember the dates of these presentations or how many people which is why I don't include them in my numbers. But here's the thing, I can get caught up in the number of presentations and whether or not those should count towards the 400, but that isn't the important aspect of this story. What is important is the fact that a professor came out to see me at a book signing after seeing the announcement in the newspaper and wanted to see who I was and what I was about.
It was such a long road to reach 400 and maybe my year's end I'll hit 500 but the long road has been filled with so many people that opened up the gate to allow me to get to the next stage of my life. Obviously there were my parents who had to listen to me go on and on about whatever topic I was into at that point in time, there were my 2nd and 4th grade teachers who thought outside the box and gave me a taste of public speaking despite the fact I had minimal interactions with my classmates, there was the man who set up a presentation at the organization that would become TouchPoint that saw me speaking about auto racing, and then there was the man mentioned in today's blog that got me in front of masters level teaching students, and of course the fact that TouchPoint took a risk and hired me on as a consultant and then full time as a speaker.
When I show up at a presentation I think there are times when those in the audience may think everything happened at all at once as if it were as easy as snapping one's fingers. Obviously, it wasn't and I try to make reference to that in that I see gains sometimes as if one were planting seeds; it takes a while for seeds to sprout. And besides that, progression in life does take time. I didn't just jump to a total of 400 presentations as it was a process. I have a spreadsheet that has each presentation with details and to reach 400 I had to have presentation #297, #198, #100, and of course it all began with #1. To get anywhere in life it is a process, or perhaps a long road and yesterday my road reached a land mark, or a major mile marker if you prefer, but the process continues on. Where will I be in three years? I've only really been doing this for a little over three years so the process drives ever forward and there's no telling, really, what lies ahead but if the first 400 are any sign there's no telling what I'll see in the next 400.