When I walked out onto the stage, my voice was strong. I had many years of training in projection, diction, etc., so I know how to make my voice get where it needs to go. But a couple of minutes into the message, while I was talking, I swallowed - which we all do naturally from time to time, even when we're not drinking anything. In this case, not all of it (the saliva - just to be explicit) went down the right tube. A miniscule drop of spit got slightly hung up. No big deal. In any normal setting, I would have just swallowed again, cleared my throat and it would have been fine. But I was in the middle of speaking and I thought, "well, you don't want to seem rude or gross anyone out by hocking up right here on stage. Just let it work itself out."
The more I talked, the worse it got. It was like putting a lid on my voice and screwing it tighter and tighter. The longer I talked, the more faint my voice was...every minute it was harder and harder to talk. Of course, at some point, I decided that I had to clear my throat, but by that time it was too far gone. Two different people brought bottles of water to the stage, and - THANKFULLY - there was a video in the middle of my message. I took the opportunity to suck down all the water I could and hack up all the junk I could and regain some composure.
I don't get distracted by much, but this really threw me. It was hard to focus on the message - I was so worried I would lose my voice altogether.
So, it was a lesson well learned. You could say it was a tough pill to swallow :-) Next time, I'll just clear my throat!