Everyday our lives are filled with decisions and choices to make. Sometimes we take the path of least resistance and make the easy choice and other times we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone and make challenging or hard choices. The only way to know what you are capable of is if you are willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Moving out of our comfort zone is easy to talk about and very, very hard to do. It takes courage.
When I ski I am way out of my comfort zone, as a matter of act there were a few times last season when I was petrified.I can ski but I do not love to ski. I actually like the idea of skiing more than the skiing itself. My family likes to ski, especially my husband and my children. Thirty years ago, my husband bought me my own pair of skis for a Christmas present because he thought that I needed to have my own skis. I questioned that decision for a few reasons; first of all skiing is expensive and we really didn’t have the money to ski, secondly we lived in NYC at the time (not really close to any mountains), and lastly because strapping skis onto my feet in the bitter cold and flying down a mountain was not my idea of having a good time. It was his idea of having a good time.
Eventually, as the years past, we moved away from NYC to the beautiful Hudson Valley.We had a few kids and we taught them how to ski at the local mountains. We even went on a few skiing vacations to Vermont, the Green Mountain State.I was always happy to stay on the green ski trails with my kids or in the bar with a hot toddy in my hands.
A few years ago, after my husband retired, we decided to spend some serious time skiing. We drove to Vermont almost every weekend. I would lie in bed at night and become very, very anxious thinking about skiing the next day. My thinking was never positive, it was actually fearful! I was sabotaging myself before I even got to the mountain. Physically, there was no reason that I couldn’t conquer skiing. Mentally, I needed some help to overcome my fear. I could have made the easy decision which would have been – don’t ski – but I decided to try to get better so I could enjoy skiing with my family. It occurred to me that the way I feel towards skiing must be the same way other people feel towards delivering a presentation. Some people fear public speaking more than they fear death!
During the past twenty years, I have taught thousands of business executives how to deliver an impactful presentation. Many of the business executives who I have worked with were way out of their comfort zones when delivering a presentation.
So the big question is how do you overcome your fear and move out of your comfort zone? Here are a few suggestions:
Everyone is capable of getting in front of an audience and delivering an effective presentation. You must believe in yourself with your whole heart and soul in order to succeed.
I am certainly capable of skiing down a mountain just like you are capable of public speaking.
You will have a better outcome when you hire a coach. Every good coach is a subject matter expert with experience. The coach will help you shorten your learning curve. I would be a better skier today if I had hired a coach and taken lessons thirty years ago instead of trying to teach myself. You can master the art of public speaking with the help of a coach.
Get good at the basics. There are fundamental techniques that you have to learn when speaking to an audience. You must have good visual language, verbal language and sound enthusiastic. When skiing, you must have the right equipment, be physically fit, and look forward, not down at your skis.
Learn to visualize success.Prior to delivering a presentation, imagine what you will look like in front of the audience. Imagine success. Prior to skiing down a trail, imagine the trail, the turns and how your body will feel. Don’t imagine how cold you will be! That is a negative thought.
Continually improve your process. Once you have the fundamentals down, try something new. For example, interact with the audience. Ask them a question. Once you have green (beginner) trails conquered, ski down a blue (intermediate) trail.
Learn from your mistakes. If you are not making mistakes then you are not pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make in front of an audience, what matters is how you recover. When you ski, you fall. The trick is learning how to get back up quickly and keep moving.
Have fun! When you learn that public speaking is not about how you feel it’s about how the audience reacts to the information that you are sharing, then you will start to enjoy the opportunity to present.
See you on the slopes!