We have been discussing overcoming challenges in my guest blogger features this month. Today, I am sharing Monica Bourgeau’s story with you. She is a brilliant woman with a very accomplished career, yet a fear of public speaking could have cut short her success. Find out how she overcame here fear of giving presentations and speaking in public.
Monica- Tell us your story about overcoming your fear of public speaking?
“When I was 29, I just started a new job at an insurance company. It was my first executive-level position and I was working many long hours on complex but exciting projects. I had just finished leading a series of small group employee meetings in preparation for writing the corporate strategic plan for the next year. My boss had been on vacation for the past week and just returned in time for the annual company-wide meeting.
As we were in the car on the way to the meeting, my boss turned to me and said, “Oh Monica, I was planning on having you talk briefly about the strategic planning process if you don’t mind.”
It was my worst nightmare. I was expected to present on stage in front of more than 200 people with no time to prepare. Even though I had taken a college speech class and was in debate in high school, I had never presented in front of a large audience.
A giant lump swelled up in my throat and I thought I was going to be physically sick. My palms were sweaty and I just couldn’t think straight. What was I going to talk about? I had just 20 minutes before my section was up. I was doing everything I could to remain calm and professional but inside, I was a complete wreck.
Somehow I made through the presentation. I’m honestly not sure what I said but I could feel every eye in the conference hall on me. It was the single most stressful event of my career and one that made me realize I had to conquer my fear of public speaking.
Today, almost ten years later, I often present to executive teams, have given several workshops and seminars, and was a keynote speaker at a women’s symposium and a CEO forum. Presenting in front of large groups still causes some butterflies in my stomach but I am confident enough now in my ability that I can work through those. It took some work and some practice, but here are the steps I took that can help you too
Be Prepared: Whenever possible, prepare your presentation early there is time to practice, practice, practice. The more prepared you feel, the more confidence you will have.
Know Your Material: When you speak about a topic you know well, it is easier to feel confident and answer unexpected questions. It also helps to choose topics that excite you and that enthusiasm comes through to your audience.
Have a solid opening and know it inside and out: If you have a strong opening to your presentation, it helps your confidence and sets the tone for the rest of the presentation.
Get yourself in the right mindset: Listen to music, meditate, or practice visualization before the presentation.
Visualize Success: When you think about the event, instead of allowing yourself to feel worry or stress, try to visualize yourself speaking with confidence and having applause and happy faces in the audience when you finish.
Be Authentic and Connect with the Audience: My good friend Michelle gave me an excellent piece of advice when I was preparing for the symposium. She said you need to be authentic with the audience and share who you really are with the audience.
Find Friendly Faces in the Crowd: No matter how serious the group, you will find that there are always some friendly faces in the crowd.
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously: Once the presentation begins, relax and go with the flow. Don’t stress too much or apologize if something goes wrong, just pick up where you left off and continue. When I was presenting at the women’s symposium, the battery on the laptop died for the last couple of slides so there was a black screen. I didn’t let it ruin the presentation though and the audience chuckled with me. I carried on from memory for the conclusion and the audience appreciated that.
Monica Bourgeau is a Life and Executive Coach at Life Ohm LLC http://www.lifeohm.com/
I deeply appreciate Monica’s story about conquering her fear. What fears are holding you back from your highest good and sacred success? Have you addressed and conquered a fear lately?
The Inspired Action Success Coach
Dr, Sheri Kaye Hoff, PhD.