In the past, the thought of public speaking used to make my stomach turn into knots. Most people find that surprising since I was a classroom teacher for 6 years. But we have to remember—I taught 5 and 6 year olds. It’s a little different when it’s a presentation in front of 1000 adults. Right?
When I was teaching, I was also part of a few different leadership groups within our district and school. I was on the committee for school pride (Go Tigers!) and helped plan professional development opportunities for teachers. Speaking at staff meetings was somewhat common, but never something that involved tedious presentations or being in front of my peers for too long. And honestly, when I had to do that, I was very nervous, hot and my heart would race. Does anyone else know this feeling?
Being an entrepreneur in the fashion industry, I am still faced with these challenges. I’m not really sure what brought this fear on, but I know it’s been a hard battle since I was in grade school. However, being a teacher and now moving into this career, I have had several opportunities arise where I need to speak in public, lead marketing meetings in front of brands or agencies and put my self out there in ways I haven’t before.
This issue wasn’t just a fear. It was a setback. I knew I needed to make a change.
Last year, a few projects came up to where I needed to speak at an event or conference. One of them being CreateCultivate. I was thrilled and honored to be asked, but extremely nervous and fearful at the thought of being on stage speaking in front of 500 women. I knew this was an opportunity I needed to pursue and wanted to get over this crazy fear of public speaking.
Through trial and error and lots of practice, I have managed to get my confidence up. Though I do still get nervous before I go on stage, the 3 tips below have really helped me be better prepared, confident and relaxed.
I am finally to the point where I actually get excited about public speaking (What! Am I crazy?). And this year, I decided to say yes and take on more speaking opportunities. In March, I was a speaker at SXSW, which was honestly one of my favorite moments in my career. Should I share more about that experience? I will be speaking again at CreateCultivate on April 19th in Dallas (spots still open!) and for the rewardStyle conference on April 20th (sold out!). Am I trying to start a career in public speaking? Ha, definitely not. But is it important to have confidence and poise when giving a presentation or speaking at an event? Yes.
The 3 tips that helped me overcome my fear of public speaking:
Who are you talking to? Know the business language to which you are presenting. This one can be hard, but I always find myself listening to podcasts on the topic or reading articles to gain a new perspective on the topic. Most importantly, you have to remember your mission and why you started your business. No one knows it better than you!
This is a given but it’s true. A close friend of mine who leads several conferences a year told me she records herself speaking on her phone and goes back to listen. This is a great way to make adjustments and hear how it will sound to the audience. I am very much a “write things down” kinda gal, so I like to take pen to paper and write out my thoughts. But the days leading up to my SXSW panel, Austin and I would go back and forth conversing about the topic. I would record my speech and we would go back and listen to it. It wasn’t fun, but it was very helpful to pinpoint areas of strength and weakness. I should also note that it’s important to not fully memorize because you want it to flow or sound conversational. But practicing will definitely help you feel more confident.
I always take several deep breaths before a presentation or speaking engagement. This helps me relax and takes the edge off. Then, I say to myself “They asked you here for a reason. You can do this. No one knows your job better than you.”
Are you afraid of public speaking? What are some things that have helped you overcome your fear?
Banana Republic Feather Ribbed Long Cardigan in ‘Heather Taupe’ (Fit: TTS.) | Halogen Lace Trim Camisole (Similar styles here, here, here and here.) | AGOLDE Lara Low Rise Skinny Jeans | H&M Black Belt | Steven Valente Leopard Mules (on sale here) | Gold Thumb Ring (This is the ring I wear everyday!) | Karen Walker Super Duper Sunglasses | Lawless Beauty Soft Matte Liquid Lipstick in shades ‘Leo’ and ‘Prince’ | Celine Belt Bag (More options here and here. Identical budget friendly option here.)
IMAGES BY MARY SUMMERS