How I Went Viral on YouTube

Some people can magically recall exact dates of pivotal life moments. Others like me need to look them up on Google Calendar. January 31, 2014 is the one I’m thinking of. I was sitting on a bench outside my workplace, chatting with Kathleen Ronald (founder of Speaktacular!) on the phone. We hired her as a guest speaker for a Meeting Professionals International event, but this time, we were simply sharing experiences as two friends.

Kathleen saw potential in this ambitious, starry-eyed 23-year-old. Back then, I wanted to be a professional speaker, or so I thought. All I had done was join Toastmasters, updated my LinkedIn with all the college workshops I’d given, and regularly met with a business coach that took me under his wing. I didn’t have a clue what I’d speak about, but that was irrelevant to Kathleen.

“Do you have a YouTube channel?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I replied. “But I keep my videos private. They’re not very good.”

“Why? You should make them public. What do you have to lose?”

The idea of putting an “unfinished product” out there on the internet was the most anxiety-inducing thought that crossed my mind in awhile. Then again, what was the worst that could happen? What was I so afraid of? Hateful comments? Internet trolls? My parents discovering my YouTube channel? Probably all the above.

But Kathleen was right. How would I know the success of my message if I’m not giving anyone the option of hearing it? I had to start from somewhere, so I went home that evening and worked up the courage (read: had a few drinks) to dig up all my Toastmasters speech recordings and post them on my YouTube channel.

I was torn between obsessively watching the view count on my videos and dissociating from such an insane action altogether. I kept up with recording my speeches in Toastmasters and uploading them to YouTube. It didn’t seem so bad. I even started doing stand up comedy and recording those sets.

Then the most unexpected thing happened. While scrolling through my channel, I saw the number 10k. I did a double-take. There was obviously a glitch somewhere, but after refreshing the screen ten times, the number stayed. I had gone viral! My mind was blown. I didn’t think the speech was particularly good, nor did I dress to impress that day. Perhaps people just wanted to see someone give a 5 to 7 minute speech on crutches? Whatever it was, I was making an impact.

While writing this blog post, I see the view count has increased to over 16k. I’m still astounded, and it’s become one of the most poignant experiences in my life to help combat my fear of failure. It was a small leap of faith I took after someone saw a spark in me and asked an important question: “What do you have to lose?”

Anything I had to lose in this situation was all in my head. The worst thing that actually happened was someone with a foot fetish making strange comments on this video… and my mom finding the stand up comedy sets where I talk about her. Other than that, taking this small action gave me the biggest reward that I still carry until this day: the confidence to just put myself out there and see what happens.

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