I did it. I had my first public speaking engagement recently
And I didn’t faint. Or throw up. Or the 800 other things that our mind likes to tell us will happen when we’re about to do something we’re afraid of (oh yeah, I had imagined it all- my plane not making it, computer failure, even no one coming to hear me speak).
Why did I do it? Because public speaking was a bucket list item for me
I knew deep down inside that I could do it, but the thought absolutely terrified me.
Jerry Seinfeld has a great story about people’s fear of public speaking:
When polled recently about peoples fears, the number one answer was public speaking. Number two? Death. So at a funeral, people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.
I can see that 😉
And I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it
Many of my colleagues were getting speaking opportunities and after hearing them speak or hearing about their speeches from others, I was a bit envious. It sounded like fun. I’m a people person by nature, so the thought of feeding off a room full of energy with others really got me excited.
But the fear of doing it stopped me every time. Cold sweat kind of fear.
But when opportunity knocks, you need to answer the door
My opportunity came as a bit of a fluke. I happened to be conversing with the CEO of ITC (Insurance Technologies Corp.) on Twitter one day and he was telling me about an upcoming Agent Conference being held for their users. I casually mentioned, “Hey, you should have me come speak at this conference some time.”
Not 5 minutes later, the VP of Marketing (who is in charge of putting together the conference) responded, “We have an open slot if you’re interested in presenting.”
I almost fell off my chair. Never in a million years did I anticipate anyone taking me up on my offer.
The first thought I had was, “Well that’ll teach me to open my big mouth.”
I then thought, “Time to put on your big girl pants and make good on your offer.”
So we set up a call and once we discussed the particulars, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity for my speaking debut (interested agency owners & small group size). Did the thought still frighten me? Oh yeah.
Creating the presentation- think of your audience first
I’ve learned that agents love to hear from other agents. I also know (because I fall into that category) that none of us want to hear about abstract theory, but instead want practical, real-life examples we can use TODAY.
So, I designed the presentation to meet those expectations. To make it a presentation that I would want to spend an hour of my all-too-little time to hear.
My presentation was titled “Creating & Implementing a Digital Marketing Strategy: From An Agent Who’s Done It.” BOOM.
I had around 30 people in my class- which was a perfect number. A couple hundred would have been a bit intimidating.
After introducing myself and my experience with digital marketing, I walked the group through the creation and implementation of a digital marketing plan via branding, website design, blogging, social media, email marketing and video marketing. Each section had tons of visuals from my agency to show the plan in action. It was a living, breathing representation of what I was talking about.
And you know what? I had the most AMAZING group of people. We had so much fun. I got way more questions than I had anticipated- in fact I ran out of time. We just kept feeding off each other.
It’s funny- when you know the topic you’re speaking about and are passionate about it, it’s actually easy to get up and speak. It just starts flowing……I was totally in the zone. I was “preaching the word of digital marketing.”
And the adrenaline rush? Off the hook. Who needs drugs when I can speak instead?
It was nothing short of EPIC.
But best of all- I did it. *big cheesy grin*
No it wasn’t perfect- but that’s a good thing
For the video marketing portion, I had embedded three videos into the presentation, but also had pulled up the videos on YouTube in case the embedding didn’t work. So of course it didn’t. And trying to switch back and forth from YouTube and the PowerPoint proved to be difficult.
So, while the tech team worked to help bring up the videos I decided to use that dead time for questions so we kept things rolling. And it worked. People took advantage of the opportunity.
An unexpected bonus
I was still discussing the presentation later in the day and even into the evening social activities. People really wanted to talk and ask questions. One fellow told me he took 2 pages of notes. Another lady told me two young agents she had spoken with had made a commitment to work on their branding.
Wow. I had made a positive impact. I had taught these people something valuable. They are using it to make their agencies and themselves, better. I guess I had never thought of myself as a teacher. But in that moment I became one. How amazingly gratifying.
- You have to practice- don’t go in cold. I practiced twice and that was enough to work on my pacing and timing, as well as have a good handle on the material.
- The What-If’s never happen.
- Ask for the opportunity. Seriously, unless you’re a big name speaker in your marketplace, with people beating down your door, you have to ask.
- When you’re scared to do something, but you do it anyway, you grow tremendously as a person. Embrace fear.
- When you design your presentation with your audience’s wants & needs in mind, you’ll have an engaged audience
- Use a PowerPoint for focus, but speak TO your audience. I purposely used bullets and visuals on the PowerPoint, but only as a jumping off point for conversation. I HATE when people read off the PowerPoint and that’s their presentation. Seriously folks- I can read. You don’t have to do it for me.
- When you encounter a problem, you’ve got to roll with it. It can be tempting to let it throw you, but if you know your material well enough, you can work through it.
- Always have a back up plan. I wrote my presentation on index cards on the off chance that a technical problem would prevent me from using the PowerPoint.
I am still living off the good vibes and looking very forward to my next opportunity (*wink wink*). I am grateful to ITC for the invitation (thank you for believing in me and your trust), to my family for letting me chase a dream and my many friends, both online and real-life, for cheering me on. Your love and support is what keeps me going.
And you know what?
I did it. 🙂