One of the tasks of our company meeting over the last two days was to answer important departmental questions such as "How can we work smarter and faster?", "What does it mean to win?" and my group's question, "How can we leverage our assets to become the partner of choice?"
I'm a copywriter, not a corporate strategist. Yet, I was chosen to lead a team of 6 other people, brainstorm an answer to that pesky business conundrum, and then present our group's recommendation to a room of about 60 people. Without having 3 glasses of wine beforehand.
I started out on a high note. We presented right after one of the "smarter/faster" teams who insisted we stand up so they were forced to speak smarter and faster to keep our attention. Cute tactic. When I got behind the mic, I said, "Public speaking makes me nervous, so instead of having you stand I'd like all of you to turn your chairs around and face the back wall." Everyone laughed. And then the Hetherington Hindenburg began its fiery decent back to the earth.
I had written out the points we needed to cover, but my chicken scratch was difficult to read in some parts and I really didn't want to look up from my paper, but I had to make sure I was keeping time with the Powerpoint presentation and making occasional eye contact with the audience, which always makes me blush, and the red face distracted me so I lost my place on the paper a few times and probably choked on several words here and there but I really can't remember what happened after my opening joke because I was so bored with everything I was saying that I (and my audience) fell into a temporary coma.
When it was over, my group embarrassed me even more by sweetly saying, "Good job, Mel!" like I was the special ed. kid who just spelled Mississippi for the first time.
But as I watched all the other presenters, I knew I hadn't done a good job—because I was so dang nervous. What is the secret to public speaking??? So many people got up and spoke like they were standing in front of their families at the dinner table. No big deal. How the heck do they do that???
I'm a very outgoing person and never shut up when I'm with family, friends and close coworkers. I did okay giving a speech at my grandma's memorial service...and I spoke at my friend Lara's engagement dinner...but you put me in a room full of extended acquaintances or strangers and I'm a wreck!
Do any of you have advice or tricks I can employ next time I have to do something like this? (Don't say Toastmasters, please.)