Last spring, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at a large networking event. Public speaking has never been my forte because, like many women, I was terrified of it. The thought of getting up in front of my peers, many of whom I’d been networking with or working with for years, made my stomach churn. What if they judged me? What if they thought I didn’t know what I was talking about or – worse yet – what if they thought I was a fraud? Just like that, all of my insecurities were on display in front of me.
I accepted the invitation, knowing that it was something I needed to do if I wanted to grow my business. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you only experience true growth when you venture outside of your comfort zone. This speaking engagement turned out to be no different. If you’re contemplating doing something that frightens you, keep reading. Here’s how I got through my first big public speaking engagement and what I learned from the experience:
- Seek out help. When you’re navigating unfamiliar waters, it’s important to hire a seasoned professional to guide you. Hiring a public speaking coach to prepare me for this event was the best money I’ve ever spent. Even though I was comfortable writing the content for my presentation, I needed a lot of help with the delivery. There are many aspects of public speaking that would never have occurred to me if I had prepared on my own. For example, intonation, rate of speech, and body language can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of a presentation. I didn’t know how to use those things to my advantage because my public speaking experience was limited. My coach modeled gestures and inflection and provided feedback so I was able to improve my approach. The result was a much more powerful presentation when it came time to address my audience.
- Be prepared for anything. Sometimes things happen that are completely out of your control. In my case, it was difficulty with the projector. I arrived early to the venue so I could get my slides and projector set up, but the projector would not pick up the picture from my laptop. Although it was a stressful situation, I was also took comfort in knowing that I was prepared for the worst. I would be able to deliver the presentation with or without projected slides because I had printed out the slides and notes to refer to. Thankfully, we were able to resolve the issue and there were no technical difficulties during my presentation.
- Lean on your support system. My friends and family are incredibly supportive, and I am blessed to be part of a local networking group for women that I have grown especially close with. Many friends, and even my mom, were in attendance at my presentation. The encouragement I received directly prior to taking my place at the podium boosted my confidence tremendously. It put me at ease to make eye contact with smiling, familiar faces in the audience as I delivered my speech. It’s not always possible to have so many loved ones in the crowd, but it helps to have support with you during your first time out there.
- Your desire is bigger than your fear. Keep this in your mind as you contemplate what you’re afraid of. You want to be successful and you want to grow your business. Doesn’t that outweigh any fear or anxiety you may experience? Speaking in front of a large room of women business owners really had me terrified, but I knew that taking advantage of the opportunity would bring my business to the next level by positioning me as an expert in my field. In the end, my trepidation was really insignificant compared to the feeling of accomplishment that I experienced during and after my speech. I had worked hard, I was prepared, and the presentation brought me closer to the success I desired.
Working through my presentation anxiety strengthened my self-confidence. I realized that I really was an expert in my field, and that propelled me forward in my business.If you’re considering doing something that you fear or are uncomfortable with, I urge you to take the leap. Branch out, try something new, and push through your fear. Your growth, both personally and professionally, is worth the slight discomfort you may feel during your journey. You have the choice to stay in your comfort zone, but will that help you to accomplish your goals?
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