Debra Swersky
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OOMCZ in A Major

Earlier this year I challenged myself with a “once in a lifetime” A Cappella performance. (Me, correct. Performing.) I’m not a singer (and do not try to be), but I am a huge A Cappella fan. The point of the performance was to throw myself so far Out Of My Comfort Zone in an effort to consciously understand my stage fright enough to manage my symptoms during public speaking. It took a little while to understand how my stage fright was manifesting itself, but the process made me stronger. Plus, I also learned a thing or two about my learning style. 

At any rate, about six weeks ago I agreed to giving a short presentation on employee onboarding and sitting on a panel of subject matter experts. The opportunity could not be a more perfect platform to promote LBD Producers… but could also not make me more nervous. From the moment that the coordination of the event began I was a wreck. Every time I think about it, my chest tightens, my breathing shallows, my mind races, and (per my previous experiences) I become snippy. Needless to say, the last few weeks have been painful and I have been unnecessarily stressed. 

Having learned from my self-experiment earlier in the year I’ve recognized my stage fright symptoms and worked to channel that energy into practice… via brute force to the head (so I said). I’ve created slides for the presentation (visuals), written a scripted version, recorded audio of the script, made notes on the presentation flow, and ultimately tried to talk it out without the script… have I overcome the stage fright yet? Not a chance!

Everyone and their mother (literally!) has asked me why? “Why are you so nervous?” or “What about this presentation is making you nervous?” or “You speak very intelligently when we’re together… what makes a presentation so different?” Great questions, people… Great. Flippin’. Questions. 

I spent the past week trying to wrap my head around the problem (why is this presentation plaguing me?) and feel that I can now answer the question that everyone has been asking. 

Even though I have been doing Headspace every day the problem is that I do not feel that I can keep my mind “present” enough to deliver a presentation. I don’t trust myself. It feels silly to write out and/or say, because I’m quite capable of staying “present” in a one-on-one conversation. But, the difference is that when I’m one-on-one I can sense the connection across a coffee table. When I’m at a restaurant I can tell a story to a table-full of people (or a section of a table). And when I’m at a networking event I can engage with the person who is interested in chatting with me. But when I’m standing in front of the room, I tense up. The connection is “not there.” Everyone in the room is staring at me. I feel powerless, weak, and lacking in energy. When I feel that happen, my mind goes elsewhere. I hear the life and personality drain out of my voice, and I might as well be the most boring person on stage. 

So, here we are. Knowledge is power. Awareness is the first step towards action.

On Tuesday, November 17th, I am the subject matter expert on Onboarding at the event: Employ, Train, and Retain (Your Next Rockstar). I am not only confident in the information I am presenting, but more than equipped to stand-and-deliver the content. The question is, “Can I trust myself to stay present and passionately convey the message that I have confidently delivered to anyone who has spoken to me one-on-one?” Only time will tell.

Debra Swersky