I am a member of several business networking groups. During our meetings, everyone gets the chance to introduce him or herself and tell us what they do — a chance to communicate about themselves, their work and the company they work for.
At my last meeting I experienced two people, a man and a woman, who were very uncomfortable doing their introductions. We started the meeting off with all of us just talking, laughing and relaxing over breakfast. But, when it came time for these two people to make their introductions it was almost painful to watch.
The woman, who was a visitor, had been rather quiet during breakfast, but was still interacting with the others. When her turn came she rose slowly, as if she were filled with pain and said, “Oh my god, I’m so nervous.” She apologized for being so nervous, and through her entire introduction she spoke quietly, keeping her head down and making very little eye contact.
The man, on the other hand, was gregariously interacting with the group and generally having a good time. When it came for him to stand and speak, it was as if he became another person. Shy and hushed as he began his intro, his speech turned out to be the fastest one of the morning. He had been given a minute to speak but he used about 15 seconds. Speaking in front of a group had almost paralyzed him, it seemed, and he was hardly able to look at the other group members. The young man spoke so fast, I found myself paying more attention to the speed with which he was talking than the content of what he was saying. The process had robbed him of all of his personality and power.
Reading these descriptions may have reminded you of times you have witnessed someone crumbling under the pressure of giving a presentation to an audience. Maybe you have even experienced some of these fears yourself.
I’m always imagining the costs to those who seem to struggle with communicating effectively under pressure:
- Missed connections
- Loss of business
- Valuable peer support
The second thing I always wonder about is: why don’t they get help? These behaviors are not all that difficult to overcome but, in my experience, people are often resistant to “critical review,” feeling it’s an attack on “who they are.”
All too often, a critical review in unskilled hands and without compassionate support, feels exactly like that: a personal attack.
Communicate Who You are and What You Offer
I promise you can make friends with the tension, embarrassment, and the fact that all eyes are on you and the idea that you may be judged. I have news for you: you are going to be judged whether you’re doing a great job or a mediocre one! It’s the nature of any audience.
I wrote this particular blog post because so many people are deceiving themselves into:
- Believing that others won’t notice their difficulties (we do notice though, don’t we?)
- Being anxious about exploring their communication skills
- Believing there is no caring and constructive support that they can trust.
Friends, please hear what I am saying. You have so much to offer!
Don’t muck it up by not taking the steps to become a great communicator. Whether it’s an acting or improvisation class or a Toastmaster class, please get help. I invite you to give me a call. I will support you in the exciting process of fully and confidently owning your moments, whenever they come.
Discover how to create, embrace and capitalize on more of those opportunities, by learning the skills for communicating who you are. It will affect the rest of your life, both business and personal.