In the last two weeks I’ve been lucky enough to take part in two speaking engagements (thanks to The BNC Event Show and International Confex for the invites) one was a panel talking about my career trajectory to Global Head of Events and the second talk was yesterday on "Running five star events on a shoestring", both coincidentally taking place on a Wednesday (that must be my lucky day).
After both presentations I was very fortunate to get really nice feedback on my performance, a couple of people even reached out to ask whether I would be able to offer them support in a mentoring capacity which I was pleasantly surprised about. One of my friends who comes along to cheer me on (extending my eternal gratitude to David and Chloë) said you seem to really enjoy presenting and you’re really good at it, you’re lucky you don’t get nervous. Truth is I do get nervous when I speak at events, even though I’m often speaking on topics which I am knowledgeable in and extremely passionate about, coupled with being a naturally bubbly and outgoing person, however, even I am not immune to butterflies. There's something about getting up in front of a room full of people, no matter what the demographic is and having rows of faces looking back at you, that makes me feel uneasy.
However, as I am trying to "live my best life" in 2018, the nervousness around speaking at events is something I am trying to overcome and I thought I'd share some tips (that aren't picturing the audience naked) on how I get over things that make me feel uncomfortable.
Do believe the hype. I strongly believe, women in particular are quite bad at this, we offer suffer from “imposter syndrome”, which is the inability to see our accomplishments with a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". I’m often told how good I am at my job, how charismatic I am yet I always brush it off with embarrassment because I don’t wholly believe it nor do I want to come across as arrogant. However over the year's I've come to realise that there is nothing wrong with being your own cheerleader - if you’re not your biggest fan who will be? Confidence is not the same as arrogance, if you are good at something embrace it, the same love and encouragement you give to your friends and family, share some with yourself. In the words of Momager Kris Jenner "you're doing amazing sweetie".
Practice makes perfect. The first event I spoke at I was super nervous, however over the years I've begun to put myself out there and been offered more speaking opportunities - the more you do something the better you will become at it!
Get out of your own head and don't be your own worst enemy. I’m really self critical, which to an extent is good as its important to be aware of your flaws so you can work on them, however don't let them own you. Some things that hold me back when speaking are “I say umm a lot”, I’m a young woman, I do not speak like the Queen, I’ve got a lisp, everyone's staring at my double chin, sometimes I say things beginning with W like they begin with an R and vice versa (shoutout to my ex who pointed that one out). Now whilst all of those things are true (maybe not the thing about the double chin I hope) chances are I am focusing on them a lot more than the audience is, as the saying goes "don’t create a mountain over a mole hole", accept your flaws and work on them where you can but don't sweat the small stuff - honestly its not worth it.
Be prepared. I always say to my team that the main reason why I am good at my job (small cheer for myself) is not because of any magical talent I have, its simply because I am thorough "Eat, Sleep, Run Through Plans, Repeat". So when preparing to speak I do everything in my power to make sure I am as prepared as possible, I run through the presentation with colleagues (again thank you Chloë and David for lending me your ears several times over), I practice in the mirror, I record myself. Now I am not saying that these are necessarily the things you have to do but make sure you do prepare as much as possible in the capacity that is best for you. After all they do say - failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Be comfortable. I present on things I know really well and I’m passionate about, if you want someone to talk about ‘Running Events in the Maritime Industry’ then I’m not your woman. Feeling comfortable with what you are doing is important as it’s a lot easier to feel at ease when something is familiar to you, its also a lot easier to pull together/ work on something that is of genuine interest to you - they always say do something that doesn't feel like work. I also dress comfortably as well, I'm a big believer in if we look good we feel good, but it’s also important to wear stuff that you feel at ease in - so I leave my more outrageous outfits or my jeans that are a tad to snug to days I’m not expected to present, but I have large gold earrings firmly in place.
Failing the above I put on my most empowering playlist, and zone out for a few minutes to really get myself in the right frame of mind - yes I am that cheesy person who has Beyonce "Run the World" and "Flawless" on repeat.
These tips I feel can be applied to whatever you feel scares you - not just speaking engagements, try them and let me know how you get on, or maybe you have some techniques of your own which you would like to share.