In Events, Speaking, Unconferences

Here is a very interesting experience that took place during the Travel Unconference Retreat we had hosted at Sterling Ooty Fern Hill. We had invited 10 passionate people who have excelled in their respective domains. The one connecting thread was their love and passion for travel. I had modeled this retreat as an unconference, a concept I absolutely, truly believe in. (Even authored a book). Since this is an unconference, we had requested each of the participants to prepare and present a TED style talk. Each of the participants picked a title. However, there was one participant who called me and expressed her severe discomfort with speaking. That person was Caroline Radhakrishnan, a travel blogger and a hardcore foodie who writes at

She said that she is perfectly comfortable writing or speaking one on one. But if its a crowd, she would feel very uncomfortable. I persuaded her to pick up a topic on cuisine, something that she truly is passionate about. She reluctantly agreed.

Yesterday, when the event started, Caroline was the third speaker in line. She told the entire participants how nervous she was and that she had never given a public speech before. I loved how she confessed her fears and showed her vulnerability. It was beautiful to see the entire audience immediately embrace her weakness and encouraged her to take the stage. As luck would have it, there was a problem with her presentation. She had copied a wrong file on her pen-drive. Could be a case of nerves. Eventually, when we downloaded the presentation, it was not appearing correctly. For a lady who is already nervous, such situations made it even worse.

Eventually, all was set right. When she finally went up on stage, there was a thunderous appreciate applause, the loudest for any speaker. She took a nervous sip of water on stage and told the audience that what she is doing is completely out of her comfort zone. She would either break or prevail. The crowd rooted for her even more. And then she proceeded to talk passionately about her love for cuisines. It was a good presentation with a nice sprinkling of humour and personal anecdotes. The talk wasn’t perfect but it was way better than I or others thought it would be. After she got down from the stage, many of the participants went to congratulate her.

There’s a strong lesson from this episode. Caroline knew her subject of cuisines very well. That’s what made her talk interesting. She had the gift of gab but what was holding her back all along was her belief that she wasn’t good enough for the stage. Today’s episode would’ve changed that perception for sure. Just like Caroline, many of us have self-limiting beliefs. They are just that. Beliefs. Wrong beliefs. Just like Caroline did to bravely step up, we should step up to challenges as well. We will pleasantly surprise ourselves.