Graphic Designer. Photographer. Speaker???

A friend proposed that I share my journey on becoming a professional public speaker. If she had told me a few months ago that I would be entertaining the idea of being a public speaker, I would have thought she had gone crazy!

The move towards the stage began the first week of August 2011. At a networking function, I was asked to give a 10 minute presentation on business marketing. After my speech, I received a generous round of applause and accolades on how useful the information was and how well I spoke. My dear friend Michelle Ketterman was so enthralled with my speaking abilities that she invited me to speak on the topic at her annual Home Inventory Professionals conference. I thought it was her way of being generous in providing me with opportunities but she was sincere. She believed I gave a great presentation and her audience would benefit from it.

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In less than two months, I had to stretch my 10 minute presentation to 45 minutes. This was an overwhelming task for me. I panicked. I even questioned myself, "how in the world can I speak for 45 minutes? I have nothing of value to say!" After setting aside my angst, I created an outline from my ten minute speech, adding a list of other topics for discussion. Under each one I indicated ways to expound on those. I practiced my presentation multiple times in the mirror and then again in front of my two cheerleaders, my husband Rick and Michelle. With their support and encouragement, they helped build my courage and reduce some fears.

I had only spoken one time prior to this. When I was a nuclear medicine technologist, an event coordinator asked me to give a continuing education class. I flunked. Miserably. The content was dry, and though I tried to add some humor, it was miserable. I spoke to fast and didn't feel I added any value. I thought I could do it because I had acted in a few plays as an adult. But I was never center stage, just supporting cast. I was never quite good enough to be in the spotlight. Ever.

And this history mentally hung on some 20 years later. Though Michelle had faith in me, I didn't. But one day changed that. I attended an all-day networking seminar. A dozen speakers spoke to a full room and only one impressed me. Perhaps I am a harsh judge, but after observing people who did not inspire, enthrall me, or teach me, I said to myself "hell, I can do better than that." And that's what I set out to do. It took an all-day seminar of listening to poor speakers to create an entire new mindset. The tuition I paid that day was worth every penny!

As Michelle's conference approached, I grew nervous, and I rehearsed while in the car, while dressing in front of the mirror, while eating lunch. I prepared visual aids for my speech and printed out my speech, double-spaced on paper. And the hour before I was to present, I was anxious, nervous, tapping my toes, breathing shallow.

And then I was there. In front of the audience. I began with a soft, quivering voice and trembling hands. Five minutes into it, I took a deep breath and proceeded to set the stage on fire. I used my visual cues, I gestured, my voice fluctuated appropriately. Yes, I goofed up but it didn't stop me. And, much to my surprise, the audience didn't realize it.

And then it was over. I did it! And they were clapping! As I looked into the audience, smiles beamed back and heads nodded in approval. After the speech, friends and strangers both commented on the value of my presentation and how well I spoke. Michelle declared "You knocked it out of the park!"

And that's how I felt. Like I had just hit a home run. Who knew several months later that this one experience would lead me to entertaining the thought of becoming a public speaker. Stay tuned for the next installment!

Alicia White is the CEO of Back of the Room Productions, home of the Speakers Briefcase™, Authors Briefcase™, and The Speaklet™ and North America's first Back of the Room Branding and Marketing Materials Provider. Copyright 2012.

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