Facing the Fear

I’ve been doing some business networking for a while now. Despite being a social being, it’s not something I particularly enjoy, as I hate the whole elevator pitch thing. But the more I’ve done it, the easier I’ve found it. Mind you, shaking from head to toe while trying desperately to read from a printed script was a pretty low starting point 😀

It’s all been online for a while which has helped a bit. But when I finally broke from the script I’d prepared and spoke from the heart – what happened? Did I fall flat on my (virtual) face? No, in fact I was relieved to see lots of faces nodding in agreement. And that’s the problem with a script – it sounds like one. It’s one reason why we hate call centres – because they have to keep to the script no matter what. 

This probably seems some a small thing, and to most people, it is. But, when I was in my early twenties, I had to give a couple of speeches. The first one went well, and that meant I relaxed a bit too much for the second one. It went fine, till about three-quarters of the way through… when my mind went blank. Fortunately the host realised and stepped in, moving rapidly to questions – but it left me shaken. I’d suffered with stage fright in school, but thought it was just a teenage thing. In fact, the experience shook me so much, I’ve actively avoided being put in that kind of position again – which, unsurprisingly, limited my career options.

Remembering that experience means I’ll never be tempted to wing it, for I know how preparation is key. Nevertheless, no matter how practised and polished I am ahead of time, by the time I’ve listened to everyone else and taken notes, there’s no way I could repeat my “bit” verbatim, for it’s but a faint memory. But having prepared, I’ll know my train of thought, and be clear on the message I want to get across.

Remarkably, I’m about to start teaching – and learning how to deliver a networking pitch, was the first just one of the myriad steps I’ve been taking to overcome this long held fear. Even more recently, I’ve been doing some training to speak to camera, and to speak live to camera. With every step taken, the fear has grown smaller. The other important factor is I’ve trained myself to expect things to go wrong – so I can laugh rather than panic when they do. In the past, I’ve found it impossible to visualise myself standing up in front of a group of people – and managing to speak – yet that is exactly what I’m going to be doing. It’s even possible that – over time – the audience will grow. Although the idea of a a podium and a large audience still gives me butterflies, in a weird way, I’m rather looking forward to it.

What fears have you faced over the years? Have you got a tried & trusted method for overcoming them?

© Debra Carey, 2021

5 thoughts on “Facing the Fear

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  1. Public speaking can be pretty scary, but does get easier with practice. Good for you, Debs! I once attended a seminar on public speaking and the speaker told us something I’ve never forgotten: your listeners want to help you; they want you to deliver a good speech…if you blank or lose your place, tell them so and ask them for help to get back on track. Coincidentally, a fire alarm went off during this speech and after it was found to be a false alarm, he just went back into his talk (after asking us for help to remember where he left off!). It didn’t even phase him. I was very impressed.


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  2. Congrats on successfully breaking from the script! To see heads (and presumably faces too 🙂 ) nodding in agreement is the best validation possible. My go-to for nervousness-reduction was always humor, and though that worked temporarily, I’m not sure it helped in necessarily getting my business message across. Colleagues with whom I would sometimes partner in presentations used to gingerly ask me to tone down the jokes. Oops. – Marty

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  3. Thanks for the kind words Deb, but even more, thank you for sharing that piece of advice. It makes me feel waaaay better about facing the possibility of going blank 🙂

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  4. Ha ha Marty 😀 I guess the problem with humour is what you & I find funny, others may not. It was an issue which was highlighted during my internet dating days. There were guys who considered themselves hilarious and no doubt there were gals who found them so, even when I didn’t. Himself makes me laugh myself silly, but it’s hard to put into words exactly why.

    Thank you for the kind words too – most welcome as encouragement on the journey.

    Liked by 1 person

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