In high school, I was extremely shy and nervous. I would dread the compulsory oral presentations we’d have to give in each class, sometimes even feigning sick to stay home and prolong it another day. I loved to plan school events, but I never wanted to get on stage and do the introductions, so I’d let my friends go up and take credit. In college, I was still shy, but I had grown more confident in myself as a person. There were also way more presentations to give that I simply couldn’t get out of.
The pivotal moment came when I had to defend my thesis during my Master of Business program. I had spent the whole year in classrooms, labs, and libraries researching. I was creating a business pitch and intended on taking it to the real world after graduation. The problem was when it came to telling a class about my awesome business plan, I would choke up. I couldn’t make eye contact, I stuttered, and I skipped over material accidentally. I knew something needed to change before I made my final thesis speech. Luckily, I had one really amazing professor with game-changing advice.
My professor of entrepreneurship during my undergraduate degree remained one of my mentors throughout my entire college career. One afternoon, I was telling him about how nervous I was to perform this presentation. I was trying to find ways to get around doing this. Maybe I could write a paper instead? My professor looked at me and said, “So each time you want to present a business idea to a client or a boss, you’re going to write a paper.” Well, no. One day I would be able to do this, just not today. That’s where I was wrong. My professor looked me dead in the eye, with a sense of urgency, saying that it’s now or never. My business aspirations were over if I did not become comfortable speaking publicly.
So, I practiced. I read every tip and trick online and practiced profusely. I even went as far as going to a busy street corner and telling anyone who would listen about my thesis. Suddenly, after all this practice, I was less scared.
The turning point for my fear of public speaking was when that professor lit a fire under my bottom and told me it was now or never. Think about all your goals and dreams for your career; are you going to let one challenge get in the way? No, you’re going to master that challenge and you’re going to be successful.