Learn To Be A Public Speaker And Change Your CareerYears ago (we won’t say how long), back in the days when I was a little kid, I stuttered a lot. I mean, a LOT. In fact, my family found themselves in a bona fide Porky Pig crisis.
My grandmother, who lived with us, had the foresight to see that this was going to be a developmental problem, and intervened. During the hot Louisiana summers where most kids were not in the classroom, she subscribed to a correspondence school and delivered lesson plans which involved a lot of reporting and speaking on my behalf.
Then there was the time she sat me down and sprung this exercise on me: “Dawn – you have something important to tell me. Your plane is leaving in 2 minutes. Now tell me what it is that you want to say before you go.”
Fast forward a few years.
From that scary practice time back in elementary school to college, I got involved in the Forensics and Speech/Debate teams, slowly learning to think through what I was saying, getting over the fear of speaking in front of people, and honing my presentations.
And after graduation, as I discovered my career path, I began to give presentations to groups as part of job community outreach. There wasn’t a single time that I didn’t think back to that sweaty, humid practice session with my grandmother back when I was a kid and silently give thanks, no matter how nervous I was in speaking to clients and peers.
As I moved along in my career, I watched speakers at conferences. “Wow,” I thought, looking at keynoters who delivered their presentations without any notes. “How do they do that?”
Then came the time that I got tapped to give a session at a national industry conference in Los Angeles, CA. The room was filled with 100+ industry peers, and I suddenly felt the burn of their gaze on me as I worked my way through the presentation. Was I nervous? Heck yes! Did I do a great job? Not really. It was mediocre at best, according to the evaluations. I knew my material, the comments said, but the delivery was lacking.
It might have been because both my knees were knocking together out of sheer nervousness.
But more importantly, that was a watershed moment in my life. I realized I could do actually get up in front of a lot of people that I knew and give a presentation that they comprehended. If I could simply work on how I delivered it, I’d have the magic formula.
And one day, I found it.
I had been slowly speaking more and more, and finally, was asked to be part of a speaker showcase where various presenters were trotted out for a 10 minute presentation on their topic in front of meeting planners who decided if the speakers would fit within their conferences and meetings.
I had never been there before, and had no idea to expect. The only thing that I did know was that I was #7 out of 20 presenters.
When it was my turn, I had no idea what I was going to say as I mounted the stairs onto the riser. I’d not prepared anything because I didn’t know quite how to format it.
And suddenly, the magic happened.
A coach appeared in my head and started organizing the content. Another coach was just outside of my body saying, “Turn here… step over here… smile… look at the person in the back of the room…” and other instructions like that to keep my body language moving and loose.
My presentation was flawless – and what was revealed to me that if you know your subject matter deep within your heart, and don’t try to rigidly construct it, it will come out flowing naturally.
Since that time, I have become a frequent speaker to groups across the United States, and love to ad lib, tell stories, play off audiences, and engage people. It is a tremendously rewarding experience that I just thrive on every single time, especially when people’s “lightbulbs” come on and get excited about the topics being presented.
It’s a far cry from that scared little stuttering kid of years gone by.
But if my grandmother had not intervened, I know that the outcome of my career destiny would have been vastly different.
So, if you are scared of speaking publicly, what’s holding YOU back? You COULD be missing out on a world of opportunities!
Thanks karindalziel for the photo via flickr
More Business articles from Business 2 Community: