Recognise this? You’ve giving a presentation, a live or a webinar and all the time, there’s a little voice talking at you. It’s telling you everything you’re doing wrong, as you’re doing it and it’s getting louder and louder and more and more frustrated. The more you try and ignore it, the louder it gets.
I call this your little monster
I first met my little monster when I was giving a presentation, for the first time ever, in Dutch. After university in the UK studying German and Spanish , I changed to work in IT and I moved to Amsterdam. For a while I worked for IBM as a team leader. One day my boss asked me to give a presentation. I had never, ever given a presentation before. This one was for 20 people. 20 technical people. 20 technical, critical people. Nice people, but people who had opinions and weren’t afraid to give them. Oh yes, the presentation was in Dutch too.
I spent a week reading about presentations, practising, getting the presentation corrected, lost lots of sleep and eventually the day arrived. I’d bought a new, chocolate-brown, corporate outfit, which looked fantastic and was incredibly uncomfortable. My make-up and hair were just right, tidy and cared for, without being overly attractive. There was no way anyone could accuse me of being unprofessional. I’d even drunk more than enough coffee to make sure I would be sharp. I was as ready as I could possibly be.
As I stood there sweating, knees knocking and my hands shaking from all the caffeine, I started to repeat words. My particular favourite was “err”. Every time I repeated a word I heard a little voice criticise me. “See you did it again!” “Stop saying Err, you sound stupid!” I started wished the earth would open up and swallow me whole.
I didn’t even dare look at my audience. I was terrified of what they would think of me. It was like there was a little monster sitting on my shoulder pointing out everything I was doing wrong. I was completely and utterly alone, in the spotlight, waiting to be laughed at and sent away. Waiting to be rejected by the tribe. It was horrible.
Thankfully after 15 minutes it was over and nobody had laughed at me. And nobody had told me I was useless. In fact, nobody told me any of the things my little monster had been kind enough to make sure I was aware of.
At that moment, I decided I needed to do things differently. I needed to stop being my own worst enemy. I had to start allowing myself to do things without feeling like I needed to be perfect. I wanted to give myself the chance to shine. And I knew I wouldn’t be able to get any further in my career if I didn’t take action.
My “Tame the monster” project
So, I started my own “Tame the monster” project. I took a glider lesson, I did a loop the loop in an acrobatic plane and did a parachute jump. I took sales courses to understand how to sell my ideas. I took singing lessons to learn how to own the sound of my own voice. I started doing stand-up comedy too to learn how I could use my humour. And I grabbed every opportunity I could to give a presentation. Anywhere.
One of the most important things I did was befriend my little monster. I’ll tell you about that another time.
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