23 minutes can feel like a lifetime. With 10,000 eyes staring up at me in excitement and anticipation of the speaker that they had all been waiting for, I could hear the loud beating of my heart as I wondered, Vivian, what are you doing here?

I recall a few moments prior to that, as I walked up the steps backstage, preparing myself for the biggest introduction of my life. Turning back to where my kids stood and meeting their eyes, my daughter, clearly sensing my nerves, gave me a reassuring look and said, “Just breathe slowly, Mom.”

Breathe. Right. It seems like a thing that might be hard to forget, but at the time, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I inhaled deeply and found my breath. Man, was it bright out there! I peered out at the audience. It was all so surreal!

Earlier that day, I had spent some time bonding with the MC, James Cunningham. I shared with him an idea I’d had for my walk onto the stage. I wanted to be able to calm my nerves and at the same time, prevent myself from tripping up and falling on my face. I figured, if I danced my way over to the microphone and happened to stumble, it would be less noticeable over the music and the energy of the moment. So I asked him if he could dance along with me to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. He smiled, high-fived me and roared, “I love that song!” I figured this strategy would not only calm my nerves, but also give me a chance to get in sync with the beat of the crowd, setting the tone before I started speaking.

I made it to the podium and looked out at the sea of people in front of me, all of their excited faces looking back. I peered down at my notes... this had been so much easier with the music blaring. Ok, I thought to myself, just breathe and read the notes you’ve been given. You’re about to introduce the great Tony Robbins!

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