Amy Purdy Top 25 Motivational Speaker


While on stage, my worst nightmare happened!

I’ll be honest, I debated whether I should share this crazy experience with you, but I promise there’s a lesson to learn, so keep reading!

Years ago, after my TED talk went viral, I was suddenly launched into the corporate speaking world and I was invited to speak at a national conference for a large healthcare company in Florida.

I prepared for this talk for weeks and the day of the talk I found myself addressing over 1000 people in a spacious hotel ballroom. I thought to myself “Wow this is a dream!” The room was silent, the audience listening to every word, all eyes fixed on me. It was so silent you could hear a pin drop!

Suddenly my worst nightmare happened! About a quarter of the way into my talk I saw movement to my right and a few people leap from their seats and began panicking. Not knowing what was happening, I halted my talk and shouted, “Is everything ok?!” In an instant, the entire room was on their feet, and that’s when I saw a man on the floor with a large group of people surrounding him. From the stage I yelled “we need help!” and then I just froze, unsure of what to do. The organizers stepped in, and I retreated backstage, filled with fear for the person who had fallen unconscious.

With everyone in shock, including myself, paramedics rushed down the aisle with a gurney, loaded the individual onto it, and whisked them away to the hospital.

You’d think that was the worst part, but my nightmare is what came next! They asked me to return to the stage and finish my speech! I thought, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!” I was a new speaker and had no idea what to say after an event like that!

I got up on stage, quivering in my legs, palms sweating, and I managed to say:

“I have to be honest, I've never dealt with anything like this before, so, let's close our eyes and take a moment of silence, and pray that the person who fainted is going to be okay.”

Instantly, I thought, “Amy! A moment of silence? Is that the best you can come up with?!” For the next 35 minutes on stage, I felt like I was dying and wanted nothing more than to run away.

Fortunately, the individual turned out to be fine. In fact, he told the organizers, “I honestly don’t know what happened; I just blacked out.”

Thinking this would be a one-time thing, I continued speaking for various brands, when a few months later it happened, AGAIN! I was speaking for Cliff Bar when ¼ of the way through, someone plopped on the floor! I thought “Really?! What the heck is going on?!

Believe it or not, throughout all the talks I gave in those early years, this same scenario happened 6 more times, 8 times total!

My speaking coach remarked, “Wow, you really know how to make an impact!” and I said “Great! But I’m not trying to kill people!”

After analyzing these instances, here’s what we discovered:

People were passing out during the most emotional part of my speech. The audience was literally holding their breath as I recounted being rushed to the hospital and being placed on life support. The truth is, people often suppress their emotions, and these particular individuals (interestingly, all men) were holding back their emotional reaction by holding their breath, long enough to pass out!

This was a valuable lesson for me as a speaker. For one, it showed me that my story was truly impacting the audience and secondly, I needed to make sure this didn’t happen again.

So, I made a simple tweak to my talk. During the most emotional part, where I know people will hold their breath, I now say:

"as I was being rushed to the hospital, I reminded myself to breathe, just breathe, and right now I want you all to do the same. Take a deep breath with me and breathe."

That is all it took to take control of the audience’s reaction and stop the incidents from happening!

I share this story with you because I want you to know:

1. You can survive your worst nightmare, even if it happens repeatedly.

2. In life we will encounter unique and sudden situations but there is always something to learn, and mastering it can actually enhance your skills and readiness for the future.

3. This story also demonstrates how your voice and story can profoundly impact others, moving them to their feet—or to the floor, in this case! 🤣

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