I very clearly remember the first time I had to do a legit, grown-up, professional presentation. My manager and I had just completed leading our team through re-engineering our processes, consolidating functions with another business unit and converting to a new system. We were pretty proud of our work and it was noticed by the powers-that-be. We were asked to present our work to a leadership conference of about 200-250 managers, directors and vice presidents. We completely panicked! We tried VERY hard to get out of it — begged, pleaded, offered alternatives — but deep down, we knew we had to do this, and we finally agreed. This was big time out of our comfort zones!
We spent probably 100 hours (only a slight exaggeration) writing, rehearsing, stressing and getting pep talks in preparation. I recall there was a whole lot of swearing going on. (How the &#$*^ did we get ourselves in this???) Right before the talk, we both thought we would be sick! In the end, it went fabulously well (those 100 hours really helped prepare us!), and we ran to the ladies room screaming with excitement!
That experience made me realize that, if I wanted even more of a leadership role in the company, I needed to figure out this public speaking thing. It couldn’t be an anxiety attack every time I needed to speak in front of people. I really needed to push myself out of my comfort zone. And so I started looking for every opportunity to stretch.
I volunteered for business resource groups and offered to do introductions or even present. I accepted an invitation to speak to 400 people at the grand opening of the Philadelphia Hope Lodge (and even ended up on the Philly news). And I even agreed to make a commercial for the Philharmonic’s 4th of July show. Each one of these steps brought a bucket of nerves, self-doubt and self-consciousness. But I pushed through it each time and it got a little easier with each successive push.
Fast forward to present day…
This weekend I had the privilege of presenting at two wonderful plant-focused events as part of the community group, The Scranton Beets. First was a session at the local library (“The What, Why, How and Wow of Plant-Based Eating). As part of that presentation, I actually did a cooking demonstration, and my friend, Jean (www.theplantbasednurse.com), even put it “live” on Facebook (video is my next challenge to overcome). And then in the afternoon, Jean and I got up on a stage at the first (hopefully annual) NEPA VegFest to talk about plant-based eating for health and demo a wonderful kale salad.
Both were wonderful experiences that I would NEVER have done in the past. And I would have missed those experiences if I didn’t keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone — over and over and over again. It did get easier over time, and now I don’t even sweat it (much!). Public speaking has a big part in my future plans, so I’m glad I kept at it!
So what’s that one thing holding you back? What’s that one obstacle that requires you to keep pushing forward to achieve your dreams? Just take it one step at a time, one opportunity at a time — and go for it! Pretty soon, this new skill will start to feel pretty comfortable!
In case you are interested: here’s the Creamy Kale Salad (from Plant Pure Nation) we demo’d at VegFest. I loved it so much I made it for dinner tonight — with kale, carrots, peppers and a few remaining green beans from my garden! (You can really use whatever veggies you want!) The dressing reminds me of that wonderful ginger dressing you get at hibachi restaurants!
IMDb: Comfort Zone (2013)