Behind the Scenes: How I Stopped Sweating Over Public Speaking

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Standing up in front of a bunch of strangers is enough to make anyone panic. Don't sweat it: do your homework and overcome the fear. By Inge Geerdens (Founder & CEO, CVWarehouse)

My job is to sell my services and manage my company. I am an entrepreneur by heart, not a professional speaker or presenter. Speaking in front of a crowd is actually not really my cup of tea. But as I am the most important salesperson for my company, and a female entrepreneur in IT, I am often invited to the stage for a presentation, keynote or lecture.

For a while I figured that the best way to handle those invitations was to say "no." But I actually found it harder to refuse than I had expected. So somehow, when the request came in enough in advance, I figured that would give me enough time to prepare. And yet I always found myself franticly working late at night, a few hours before the presentation, trying to create the visual support I had in mind. Despite all my good intentions, I kept procrastinating.

Dare to Prepare

One night I decided to turn my habits around. Now, when I have to give a presentation, I mark it in my calendar six weekends in advance. During that weekend I write down two or three key messages I want to get across. Five weekends before the presentation, I decide which stories could support these messages. The following weekend, I look for pictures that go with my stories and my messages, randomly collecting everything that I think might be useful. The next weekend I slowly rehearse the presentation in front of my computer, while shifting through all the pictures.

Work Out

The next weekend is when the magic really happens, because two weekends before the presentation, I go to the gym. Combining a workout with the rehearsal for a presentation has proven to be ideal for me. Time flies while I am working out, and I also work more efficiently on the presentations to avoid an endless workout. Afterwards, I go home to make the final changes. The next week, I go back to the gym and rehearse my presentation while doing steps until I can practically sing the whole story.

Sure, my way of working might not be mainstream, but it has three important benefits for me:

Three Key Benefits

First of all, I can now actually bring the keynote or hold the presentation I had in mind.

Secondly, I gain a lot of time and peace of mind. Instead of spending a whole weekend being stressed about the amount of work I still have to do, I now only spend one or two hours during six weekends, completely calm because I know I have plenty of time. Even when something unexpected happens, like one of my kids getting ill or something urgent that needs to be covered at work, it doesn’t completely ruin my mood, or the presentation.

And the third, most important benefit of all: I am happy with my performance. I now actually look forward to preparing and holding a presentation.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

How did you turn a challenging task into something you can look forward to?


About the guest blogger: Inge Geerdens is a proud mother of three adorable kids and the CEO of CVWarehouse.com. CVWarehouse is a software company (e-recruitment/ATS) helping organizations worldwide manage and measure their recruiting efforts. Inge is an untiring evangelist for entrepreneurship. She shares her expertise, even failures, and tries to help (aspiring) entrepreneurs turn ideas into business.