I’ve been afraid of speaking/presenting in public for as long as I can remember. Even small group presentations scare the shit out of me. My stomach turns, my palms get cold and clammy and I stutter. I end up a stuttering mess.
This from a girl who took up so many confidence-building workshops back when I was a tween (hello Taekwon-do, Theatre, Voice Lessons, and Piano Lessons).
I think the problem for me there is my ownership of the topic.
3 years ago, while CashCashPinoy was still starting out, my boss went out of town so I had to go in his place to do a radio interview about the then budding industry which is e-commerce. I was scared shitless. I couldn’t sleep the night before and I felt like I was plunging head first into a bottomless pit.
I knew the business like the back of my hand. And all I had to do was echo what I knew.
But during the interview, I was speechless. It was a radio interview. I could just pretend that the DJs were just random people asking me about CashCashPinoy and block out the thought that there were millions of faceless people who were listening in on the show. Friends, afterwards, told me I did a good job. I knew I could’ve done better. But I was scared. I was scared that I would sound stupid. That I would say something I shouldn’t be saying. That what I would say wouldn’t make sense. I was terrified of failing. At the same time, I was terrified of the thought that I might end up disappointing the people who were counting on me to make our brand “shine”.
After that, my boss knew better to send me to things wherein I would have to talk in front of people I didn’t know. He’d still send me to meetings wherein I’d have to talk to big shot people like VPs of something something or Director of this and that and I’d talk to him about how intimidated and scared I was the entire time.
And that fear never really left me.
Well, until fairly recently.
I guess it came to a point where I just didn’t have a choice. There was nobody else to send.
2 weeks into working here at AD, my boss sent me to this meeting with all of the big bosses of different e-businesses. I was the youngest of the group in my Doc Martens and Elbow-patched blazer and messy hair. I felt like nobody took me seriously. But I knew that despite their age, despite their tenure, I knew just as much as they did… maybe even more. So I started talking. I started giving a different opinion from what they collectively agreed to. Not because I thought that I knew better, but because I simply thought that there has to be another way to do things.
The opportunities to challenge myself and this irrational fear of owning my position and my knowledge didn’t end with that.
I guess that’s one of the good things with working in a fairly international environment. Working at CashCashPinoy, I was surrounded by different nationalities– French mostly. (both internal and external). Here, there are more! I’ve gone head to head with Singaporeans, Scandinavians, Indians, Indonesians, Hungarians, etc.
When my new boss suggested that I should target doing a presentation in next year’s Functional Gathering week (it’s a gathering for all middle-management employees — supposed subject matter experts — wherein some people are asked to show off their best projects to be questioned and criticized albeit silently by the rest of the group), I said NO WAY immediately. No way was I going to just stand there while my peers think bad thoughts about me, my project and my company.
Then I went to the FGW (which is another story) and I realized that there is absolutely nothing to fear. These guys— they’re no better than me (well some are, actually). They’re also just there to learn, like me, and figure out what actions will be best to take for their own company’s improvement… LIKE ME.
This Friday, I agreed to do a podcast interview for Product Development Thought Leaders. I will be representing the company. Basically I’d have to talk about being a Product Manager and Product Development. For a good hour or 2, I entertained the thought of backing out because I figured I didn’t have anything to say. I know shit about being a Product Manager. I’m just playing all of this by ear. And then I realized, I can talk about that. That being a Product Manager is all about trying to find things out. Trying to find out the best solution to a problem. Trying to find out the best direction to take to improve things and the business. And it’s an ongoing discovery process.
So I figured, if I can do this interview, I can do a presentation in the next FGW, I can do IMMAP (ok, maybe not), I can talk about what I’m doing to anybody.
So yeah, I’m not afraid anymore. And not because I realized that I’m good at what I’m doing or anything. Nothing cheesy like that. But it’s all because of people who forced me to do this. My old boss and my new bosses who pushed me in situations wherein I have to keep my cool, put on a brave face and try to keep my voice from shaking while I talk about the things I already know like the back of my hand.
Well actually, that’s a lie. I’m still scared of speaking in public. Voicing out my thoughts and having people question them. But, I’m not paralyzed by this fear anymore. I’m afraid, yes. But so?
I figured, if I’m going to be the next Marissa Mayer, I’m gonna have to go through this. (lols) But kidding aside, there’s nothing to be scared of really. So ok, people will criticize what I will say, question my beliefs and thought process, but there’s always something to take home from those kinds of experiences. There’s always that chance that maybe they’re right. And I have to take those maybes with me and think again about what my own ideas, beliefs and thought processes. In the end, there’s a 50% chance that what I take home will just make me better at what I’m doing and because of that, give better results and better opportunities for the projects that I’m working on.
But this is me rambling in an attempt to give myself a pat on the back because seriously, during the radio interview, I nearly peed my pants. And look at me now, looking forward to the next presentation I will be doing.
Maybe it’s another story if I’m surrounded by good looking guys and I would have to present in a bikini…