Archive for the ‘confidence’ Category

This is just a made-up term I use when my delivery of a presentation doesn’t go well, and I wish there was a “delete” or a “redo” button I could hit to pretend it never happened. The ultimate outcome of today’s presentation was positive, but my delivery of it took me back to when I was in school, and early-career, experiencing shortness of breath, shaky voice, and an overwhelming urge to run out of the room to try to center myself. I thought I had overcome this particular challenge in light of more recent successes in giving presentations, leading workshops, and delivering speeches. This today was a presentation given for our organization’s Executive Director, who I have never had any particular trouble speaking to in the past, one-on-one, and in less formal situations. Not sure what it was, but maybe the combination of standing in front of the room (containing a 30-foot conference table) holding a clicker and going through PowerPoint slides had something to do with it.

nervous-public-speaking-clipart-1Embarrassing yes, but even more so, interesting. Interesting in a few ways: 1. How I got through the first couple of slides with no problem, and then something kicked in on the 3rd slide, the slide with a ton of text on it that I would have to go through in detail -as I’m writing this, I’m thinking that may have also contributed to my “deer-in-headlights” moment. 2. How the fact that there was very little time to prepare/rehearse goes against how anyone, but especially introverts such as myself like to go into a presentation. 3. How making small adjustments can make a significant difference, like sitting back down towards the end of the presentation helped create a more relaxed atmosphere, helped me speak more confidently, and hopefully reclaim the moment.

The other attendees tried to reassure me that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I perceived it to be. But my familiar pattern is to beat myself up over things like this. After a sufficient self-flogging, I can usually move on and focus on whatever a new day brings. What’s more, the ultimate result was positive in that the Executive Director reacted favorably to our ideas put forth, with good likelihood of them being implemented. So in light of that, and the fact that this can serve as a teachable moment, would I really want to “undeliver” the presentation? Great question. I guess the answer is yes….and no.

In closing, here are some tips to conquering presentation anxiety. Also, keeping our sense of humor can go a long way in this or any trying situation. Check out How To Add Fun to Your Business Presentations to help maintain a healthy perspective.







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Lukas Rosol’s reaction after winning the match!

I’ve been watching a lot of Wimbledon on TV this year. The other day I saw one of the biggest upsets in Wimbledon history when Raphael Nadal was beaten in the 2nd round by a virtual unknown named Lukas Rosol. This morning there was much in the way of analysis and commentary about how Rosol could pull off the seemingly impossible. A huge part of it, I believe, is that he went out there without fear, unintimidated, and just went for it unafraid to take chances. When you take this into account, the result isn’t as surprising as one might think. Playing it safe isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. The same can be said for how we approach our careers and professional goals. That’s not to say we shouldn’t spend time to thoughtfully plan and strategize. In fact, it would be foolish not to.

Think about your career up to this point and see if there are times when fear and uncertainty have held you back. Have you ever felt stuck in a dead-end job because of a fear of taking a chance on pursing a job/career that was out of your comfort zone but would feed your passion? Or did you ever forego further education that would qualify you for a more suitable job because you weren’t sure you could handle the extra workload?

After some valuable life lessons, I’ve learned that it’s very important to take some chances, and fight through the fear and uncertainty in order to reach those career goals and dreams. I think it all boils down to this: when all is said and done and it’s time to look back on your career, will you regret the things you did or the things you DIDN’T do? Of course, NO regret at all is what we all strive for, but I’d rather have had taken some chances regardless of the outcome vs. being stuck in “comfort” and fear! Soren Kierkegaard had it right when he said, “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily.  To not dare is to lose oneself.”

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One of the biggest challenges for introverts is overcoming perceptions that we’re somehow not enthusiastic or taking initiative or adding value or being a good team player in the workplace. The challenge doubles when we’re outnumbered by our extroverted colleagues or when others don’t realize just how much value we can “bring to the table.”

Sitting in a meeting recently really brought this to the surface and helped me understand myself better. Basically, the meeting was a website demo for a new service our organization was considering buying. As an introvert, my style is to take in the information, process it, and then come back with some really good feedback. Sitting in that meeting with, I’m guessing, mostly extroverts giving instantaneous feedback to the presenter, I felt at first like I wasn’t making a contribution. But after having some time to think about it , I remembered that that’s how introverts are hardwired – to think first, then speak.

So the end result is much the same – it’s just that introverts and extroverts get there in their own way, neither one right nor wrong, both making a valuable contibution.

Check out this interesting article called, Why Introverts Can Make The Best Leaders, and the book by the same author called, The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength. They bring to light some of the unique strengths that introverts have, especially on the job.

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Do you ever feel that you’re not as far along in your career as you “should” be? I used to, and a big reason was that I would fall into the trap of comparing myself to my peers. Some of my friends seemed to have had done so much by a certain age that it would sometimes make me feel like an underachiever. But now I see things much differently. I now realize that everyone progresses at their own pace, and what’s right for one person may not be right for another. Basically, everyone travels their own journey and when we get to where we want to be, we can look back and usually see that things happen when they’re meant to.  

I recently saw my old self in a client that I was coaching who was feeling discouraged. She was stuck in her belief that she should be further along in her career because others of a similar age and educational background are doing “bigger things.” After trying to get her to let go of this and focus instead on her strengths, skills and what she can offer a potential employer, it reminded me that everyone gets to where they’re meant to be according to their own calendar, not someone else’s.

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A friend of mine asked me for my input on his career direction. He had a pretty good idea of where he wanted to take his career, but needed some confirmation that it would be a good fit, personality-wise. We met at Caribou Coffee last night and had an “unofficial” coaching session to talk about it. One of the tools I use with those I’m coaching is a book called Career Match: Connecting Who You Are with What You’ll Love to Do, by Shoya Zichy, which uses a unique model to match an individual’s personality traits with suitable career paths. It’s not fool-proof, but is a good general guide and “jumping-off point” for those seeking a new profession.

After our session, my friend was very happy that his initial feelings were supported and confirmed by the model presented in the book and can pursue his path with a little more confidence.

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Zumba class held on the beach

For the past few months, I’ve been taking Zumba classes at my local gym, Vida Fitness in DC. I used to just use the machines there, but also taking some of their classes like Zumba (and yoga) has really helped maintain both my physical and mental wellness. Some of the benefits for those who take classes include better overall health, stress reduction, improved muscle tone, elevated mood, newly acquired skills, increased confidence and new social and professional connections.

It can also give us another thing to look forward to each week. For example, if you’re unhappy in your job (like many people unfortunately are), you need to find things to make you happy after work hours, like taking a fun class at the gym (at least until you find a job that makes you happy!)

So check out the classes at your local gym to see what appeals to you! If you’re not already a member of a gym, take a look at this health club directory to find one that’s right for you.

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In the past, the thought of getting up in front of a group of people to speak or give a presentation would strike fear in me and cause my heart to race. But when I started conducting career workshops on a regular basis, I got more and more comfortable with the process. Nerves still creep in from time to time but I’ve been able to use the following tips to help me become a more confident public speaker and give effective presentations:

  1. Don’t be thrown. If your audience’s attention appears to stray, don’t let that throw you. The reason they may seem uninterested may have nothing do with you or your presentation. It could very well be short attention span or their inability to maintain good eye contact.
  2. Be a problem solver. State things in a compelling way that will resonate with your audience.  Provide solutions more than just giving facts.

    Presenting "How To Be a Super Networker" for Women In Sports & Events (WISE-DC).

  3. Slow and steady wins the race. Do you start speaking quickly when you get nervous? Be aware of your pace, and slow yourself down if necessary. Speaking in a conversational tone, at a steady and moderate pace can help to relax you.
  4. Smile. Speak with inflection in your voice and smile in order to maintain interest from and a connection to the audience. Even inject humor if appropriate.
  5. Be prepared. Good preparation is essential. But don’t over-rehearse to the point that your presentation sounds mechanical. Practice for friends or colleagues. That way, you can hear how it sounds, get feedback, and get practice presenting for an audience.
  6. Be a storyteller. Tell a brief story to illustrate a point. Your audience will connect more with a story rather than lecture.
  7. Don’t forget to breathe. Doing some breathing exercises just before speaking can greatly relax you. One that I like is called the “4-7-8” breathing exercise.  Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4. Hold it for a count of 7. Then breathe out through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat this 10 times.  So simple yet so effective.

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