The difference between you and that person doing what you wish you could do is that person was afraid and did it anyway.
Over the past 10 years, I have had the opportunity to do keynote presentations in front of large audiences. Every time I deliver a keynote, someone asks how I do it. How do I get up in front of all those people and speak? When I was asked to speak at this year’s Women of the Channel Conference, I found it an opportune time to share my story.
Most of us have something that we are afraid of or think we cannot possibly do well. In fact, I couldn’t always speak in front of large groups, or groups of any kind. When I was seven years old and in second grade, my teacher asked the entire class to bring in an item for show-and-tell. I brought my item and prepared my speech but, when my turn came, I went to the front of the class, stood there for a moment and began to cry. Without saying a word, I sat back down. From that moment on, I did anything and everything I could to avoid speaking in front of groups. I cut class, I begged to do extra credit or any other assignment. And then there came a time when something I wanted required that I overcome my fear of public speaking to succeed. I then had to figure out how to overcome my fear.
That changed when I chose business as my major. There were a lot of presentations and there was no way I could avoid them. I decided I wanted a business degree more than I didn’t want to do presentations. I found that I became less afraid the more presentations I did.
When I finished college and began working, speaking engagement opportunities grew and I spoke in front of larger audiences. People thought I was good at it. They thought I looked confident. I thought that since I was afraid and that I had to work at it that it wasn’t “my thing.”
I had a few experiences where I saw behind the curtain of other people’s preparation process. I learned from great speakers who appeared to be naturals that preparation is key and that the presence of fear and the need to prepare is part of many successful people’s experience.
In the documentary, This is Elvis, a scene shows Elvis Presley backstage at one of his last live performances having a panic attack. At this point in his career he had done hundreds of performances just like the one he was about to do. The thing that stood out for me is that no one around him seemed concerned. Clearly this had happened before. The next scene showed Elvis on stage. He was the Elvis that we all know, in spite of his fear.
One CEO that I worked with said, “The trick is to be so prepared they think you weren’t.” He put a lot of time into preparing. Another CEO spent time formatting the slide deck as a way of getting familiar with the material and another liked to practice by answering mock questions about the topic to get more comfortable.
Seeing behind their curtains enabled my understanding that no one simply gets out of the chair and stands up on the stage and delivers a great speech. I learned that what we see people deliver is the result of the preparation they put in beforehand.
Today, I do keynotes and presentations in front of large groups quite often and although I have evolved a lot with practice, I still work through fear and self-doubt when I do anything that is outside my comfort zone. Facing my fear in this area has transferred to other areas of my life. I now know that when we face that thing we are afraid of, when we lean into it and do it anyway, the fear dissipates and on the other side is an exhilarating sense of pride and accomplishment. And the next time just gets easier.
About the Author
Andrea Miner serves as director, consulting services, Analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions, North America at Tech Data. In this role, she leads North America’s team of business and technical consultants who are responsible for implementing Tech Data’s Practice Builder™ methodology and accelerating the channel’s growth opportunity in data, analytics and IoT.