For as long as I can remember I have actively avoided public speaking: even being involved in a seminar/lecture used to intimidate me.
Whilst in school I was loud (and probably obnoxious) in the class room when sat in my seat. But ask me to stand up and talk to the class and I’d freeze up. These first few nervous forays into the realm of being ‘centre of attention’ made me uncomfortable, and so when group work came about I’d ensure I was not the member of my team that found themselves in the spotlight with all eyes on them.
Starting my company Gleem, networking and trying to raise the profile of the company meant that inevitably I would have to bite the bullet and start.
I joined a networking group (http://www.bni.co.uk/) where you stand in front o your peers for 60 seconds per week and present your business: I hated it: they eyes, the sweats, the stumbling through your minuscule pitch, and found it disheartened me.
My next attempt was in the start-up awards call The Pitch 2015 (http://www.thepitch.uk/). I nervously attended the London semi-finals where I had the hilarious experience of being asked to beat a chair with a newspaper as hard as possible in front of 30 people before pitching: the adrenaline rush was completely re-channelled, and I managed to complete the pitch before the fear set back in. We got through the the final of the awards, great news…until the realisation of what I’d done kicked in: I was going to be pitching in front of a much larger group of more influential people…uhoh. I was scared, so scared in fact that I went to the doctors to talk about the fear. I was subscribed Propanalol, a beta blocker, to help with the physical reactions. When the final came around, I utilised the pills, and made it through the pitch: I barely remember being on stage, it was a complete blur (I hope I did ok!).
I didn’t get involved in public speaking for about a year after that. I quite wanted to avoid it altogether and build a business around me that kept me away from it… attending expos? I had a team who could do that, going to networking breakfasts? That’s Gareth’s job!
I was doing this active avoidance until I joined the Bristol hatchery of Entrepreneurial Spark (http://www.entrepreneurial-spark.com/) where part of their mantra it pitching: you need to be able to NAIL your 60 second pitch, and no-one was excluded from the privilege of standing in front of the full room. About 3 months into the incubator, and the event night rolled around: a pitching competition. I had walked up and down the Bristol to Bath cycle path for 3 hours before the event regurgitating my 1 minute of words until it was so rooted in my brain and mouth that surely I could go into the pitch with at least some confidence: it worked, we got through to the final of this event too!
QUEUE COMPLACENCY: The final came round a few weeks later, and because I had done so well the first time round made a supreme misplacement of my confidence, and assumed I no longer had a fear of public speaking. My turn quickly rolled around…
Approximately 30 seconds into my pitch my worst nightmare happened: I forgot my lines! 200 pairs of eyes on me, and 0 words. I strolled around the stage desperately trying to find them. After what felt like an eternity I HAD to break the silence “sooooo…”. The audience laughed with me, and I immediately relocated my lines. I finished the pitch off, and received my obligatory round of applause.
What I thought would be dreadful was actually fantastic: I can remember the spring in my step as I walked off stage: messing up was fun, and now I had nothing to worry about! I immediately decided that I am going to become a great public speaker!
Building Gleem has taught me so much about employee engagement and empowering people to enjoy their jobs.
If you’ve made it to the end of this post I have a favour to ask: Will you help me to enjoy my job more?
I would love to speak at any event you attend. I’m building a list of topics I’d love to expand upon in front of people: Starting a business with £200, Entrepreneurship, Empowering employees, How to be modern in a traditional industry and The power of diversification.
Did any of those pique your interest? Please email me at Joe@Gleem.co.uk
Thank you in advance!