I don’t love public speaking, but I’m told that I’m better than I think. I once took a class where we were videotaped giving a speech in front of the group. I was surprised to see that while my heart was pounding on the inside, no one could see me sweat. I never let on how nervous I was and seeing it for myself was a game-changer.
This came in handy recently on the way to a job interview, I went over the presentation in my head. I was feeling confident about my slides and prepared for whatever follow up questions would come my way. My accomplishment stories were solid, and I was proud of the two writing pieces they assigned to me. Everything was just about ready to go.
But I had one problem. I didn’t have an opening line. I’m a communications professional, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to kick things off. If I wanted this job, I needed a hook. Something that would grab their attention and hang on my word. Something that would make the senior leadership stand up, embrace me and say, “where have you been all my life?”
I went through the presentation in my head as I drove to their office. Nothing sounded right, and now my palms were sweating. I had that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach. The voice inside my head was screaming at me.
“How could you be so stupid,” it said. “You worked so hard on this presentation. Why did you think that something would just come naturally? Or magically?”
I pulled into the parking lot with 20 minutes to spare. I had a few ideas floating around in my head, but I grabbed my laptop and downloaded my presentation hoping inspiration would strike.
Finally, I took a deep breath and asked myself: What am I trying to say? What do I bring to the table that they desperately need?
And then, out of the blue, it came to me. I am a storyteller, and people love to hear a good story. Stories are powerful things. They spark emotion. They inspire others to act and to give generously.
I finally had my opening line and made my way into the office.
* * *
“Whenever you are ready,” the CEO said.
I stood up and even though my heart was beating a mile a minute, I remembered my public speaking class. I took a deep breath and walked to the front of the room. My hands were no longer sweaty. I was back in control.
“Thanks again for inviting me here today. Again, my name is Elisa, I’m a sucker for a great story.”
At the end of the presentation, I thought it went well. The opening line was well received, and it looked like people connected with my ideas. Of course, one can’t be too sure about these things. Maybe I did terrible, and they were just being polite.
But, here’s the best part.
During my one-to-one with the CEO, her first question was this.
“Do you train people to speak in public?”
I was floored. I guess they never saw me sweat.
Best compliment ever!