I’ve asked both Lillian and Jemitra to share a personal and self-care story with you all, and now it’s time for me to add my own story – a professional story. When I requested the other ladies contribute something, I had no idea that my own offering would be so timely. But instead of pushing this to the back burner and choosing something that I’ve had time to (over-)analyze and digest, I decided to go with this one, while the feelings are still new and raw.
Last Thursday I did a webinar for a client of mine. It’s the second project in a 3-project deal I signed with them at the end of 2010. Because this is a large international organization, it goes without saying that I was very pleased to have landed the deal. The first part – individual coaching of one of their executives – went extremely well.
I went about preparing for the webinar in my usual way. First, due diligence where the technical stuff was concerned coupled with the actual research for and writing of the presentation. Then rehearsing with my SO as my audience to check the flow and eliminate any gaps in logic. So, it should be smooth sailing on the day, right?
I could list the (small) technical snafus that shook my concentration right before the webinar got started, but – to be perfectly honest – they can’t be held responsible for what happened next. Although they did make my blood pressure spike, they were indeed insignificant in the overall scheme of things and I was logged on and in the driver’s seat in good time to begin the session.
But why did it go downhill from there? Because – in my mind – downhill it indeed went. Instead of skillfully leading the group through the presentation with my own unique blend of intercultural theory, professional examples and personal experience, I rushed from one slide to the next as though I were seeking cover from a sniper. The facts I presented to compare and contract the American and German psyches in a business context seemed without relevance, my examples arbitrary and my personal anecdotes flat and disjointed. By the end of the presentation instead of feeling in control of the session, I felt at the mercy of my audience.
You have to understand, under normal circumstances I am an amazing presenter. There are some presentations I could give in my sleep and on many occasions my rhetorical prowess has people sitting on the edge of their seats. I can usually overcome pre-presentation jitters in a flash and establish a connection with my audience that leaves them wanting more.
BUT: this type of “black-out” has happened to me once before since I started my own company in 2005, so over the weekend I spent some time reflecting on both situations.
- Both times I chose something I felt passionate and knowledgeable about
- Both times I prepared a written presentation that – even viewed after the fact – was well-constructed and logically sound
- Both times, however, I failed as a presenter
When I ask myself why, the answer boils down to the same thing in both instances:
I couldn’t own what I know I know
In other words, instead of feeling empowered by my knowledge and experience, sudden feelings of insecurity and inadequacy overshadowed all the mechanically sound preparation I had invested in the event.
What made me step away from my own power like that?
To say it was fear of failure seems nonsensical, because the performance I gave was anything but stellar.
Was it fear of winning instead?
You see, in both cases I was giving a “maiden” performance before a large group for an important organization. A client whose repeat business I would certainly appreciate! When I was still working in advertising and called to give presentations like these, I often drew strength from the name and reputation of my agency. It wasn’t just little-ole-me standing at the front of the room, I was “Ms. Roach from Agency XYZ”.
What would it mean for me and my business to “win” in a situation like that and why am I afraid of it?
This is what I know today:
My knowledge and experience haven’t diminished since I’ve been working under my own banner. If anything, it’s increased in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible at the time I made the decision to work for myself. That increased power should be the wings that allow me to rise to any occasion for which I am adequately prepared. Rise and soar! Because – contrary to the time when I worked for someone else – I have the luxury of speaking my own truth when I work. I represent ME!
What story are you telling yourself?*
- Half the battle is simply waking up and becoming conscious of the commentary running through our minds. Most people are oblivious to it. It is especially important to be alert to it whenever we experience adversity or trauma. Ask: What is story am I telling myself right now?
- Many people confuse The Voice in their head with The Truth. But The Voice is only offering one perspective, based on previous experiences and—too often—fear. We don’t have to accept the version of reality The Voice is telling. Ask: Is this storyline accurate?
- You can either live life based on past experiences, current feelings—or transcendent truth. “Most people doubt their beliefs and believe their doubts. Do just the opposite.” Ask: What do I know to be true?
- We don’t have to be passive spectators in our stories; we certainly don’t have to be victims. Our personal choices matter—more than we think! They can affect the outcome. Ask: How can I make the choices that create the best possible story?
Next time I’m confronted with a similar situation, I’ll remember writing about this experience for all of you. I’ll then take a deep breath or two, remember who I am and what I represent, then proceed to knock their collective socks off!
* Adapted from “What Story Are You Telling Yourself?”