The Motivational Speaker’s Hangover

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Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who teaches you how to harness the power of your story to connect, engage, and get results. In this blog, Kelly focuses on the business of professional speaking. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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The Day AFTER The Gig

It’s the part nobody ever tells you about when you enter the speaking business – the hangover.  No, I’m not talking about the kind you get from drinking too much, although sometimes that’s part of it – especially if your speaking gig ends in a free upgrade on the airline into first class on a Friday night.  But the speaker’s hangover really doesn’t have to do with drinking. It has to do with coming down off of a gig.

Most people don’t realize what tremendous energy it takes to do my job.  On the outside it looks like all I do is administrative paperwork, ride on airplanes, sleep in hotels, and get on a stage and talk for money.  That doesn’t exactly keep me thin.  But there’s something mysterious that happens throughout all of this in regards to the energy I deplete.  There’s something your body goes through as you take three flights in a row (there AND back), lug two suitcases through a rental car parking lot, spend hours working on your program while answering emails, and then arrive at your event before everybody else to set up your product table, survey the stage and room layout, and get ready to greet. Then you spend hours walking and talking and laughing and making friends as people arrive. At least I do. Some speakers hide and prefer to pop in and pop out. Not me. I believe part of the experience I deliver is being hands on and accessible to the audience for as long as I can. The time to rest is not while you are at work.

While you are chatting and greeting, you’re selling books, answering questions, and trying to find a time to go pee before you speak. Then you’re finding out that things are behind schedule and the amount of speaking time you have is changed, and you’re reworking your speech minutes before you’re supposed to go on. Then you go on. And THAT’S the fun part. That’s where I come and give you everything I’ve got – where I push and pull and dance and fly and react and relish in the moment. And in a BLINK it’s over.

And now I’m back at the product table selling books, signing books, explaining what’s in the books, laughing, hugging, and listening to everybody talk at once, trying to give them my complete undivided attention as much as I can. And from that point on, wherever I go, they are coming up to me and sharing their stories and encouraging me and telling me what they experienced. Wow. I love how kind and encouraging people are. It goes on for as long as I am able to stay at the conference, which is often all day.

Then I’m swiftly packing up my product bag and gathering my things to get back to the airport. Getting through security. Grabbing a meal. Organizing my travel bag which has a bunch of new stuff shoved in it.  Then I’m on a plane, chatting with my neighbors, dozing intermittently, and trying to decide between vegetable juice and a screwdriver.  I arrive home where my husband and son are always waiting to pick me up – last night it was 1:30 am and they were blurry eyed and running on empty. And we get home and have to unload bags and dig through my suitcase for my toothbrush and I’m still kind of wired so it takes me a while to go to sleep. And then the next morning….


….like nothing else I have ever felt. I might as well have gotten drunk. It’s just as bad. I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. My eyes won’t open. My face is puffy. My ankles are swollen. I can’t hear out of my left ear. My sinuses are  congested. I’m pretty sure I see dead people. I shuffle around the house hoping somebody will put coffee into my hand. I don’t even have the energy to eat. Not even chocolate. If you ever want to break into my house and take everything I own, this is the time to do it. Just don’t ask me to help.  It’s the motivational speaker’s hangover and it is brutal.

I don’t know if everybody goes through it. Maybe not. Maybe I expend more energy than most (I’ve been told that I am a really high energy person) and so the crash is stronger. All I know is that my body physically stops me the next day and forces me to take a time out.

Is there a cure? Yes. Time out. So if you suffer from a speaker’s hangover, take that time out. Rest. Relax. Rejuvenate. Take a bath. Light a candle. I know you have more work to do. So do I. I know it’s tempting to check emails and just do this one more thing.  But we can’t. Shoot, even Jesus took time outs. We must fill back up. This job is demanding, and in order to be there for other people, we have to take the time to rest and restore. Or one day we will burn out for good. I know. I’ve been there. And it’s not pretty.

So today, as I suffer through another speaker’s hangover, I will stop and slow down.  Well, except for writing this blog post, which isn’t really like work is it?