Boy, that’s been the case for me this past week – I’ve been feeling quite far out of my comfort zone with some of the activities I agreed to get involved in! But now I’m sitting here on the other side of some of the uncomfortable acts I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance at doing, I’m feeling on top of the world actually – really pumped and excited about what I made myself do!
My first ‘uncomfortable’ zone was to speak at a conference for over 100 people – I was first up, and my remit was to welcome and introduce our celebrity speaker. I’d prepped, of course, read websites and bios, but I also went and introduced myself to our celebrity and asked if I had pitched my intro in the way they wanted – a couple of tweaks were suggested (more discomfort as last-minute changes are not always what you wish for) but we got there. It’s a slightly surreal experience, speaking to a large room of people – and it can be hard to judge how you are doing, but definitely worth seeking feedback from people who will tell you straight!
A couple of days later, wearing my chocolate hat, I was on a BBC foodie radio show with other chefs for two hours on a Saturday afternoon. Now, much credit here must go to the presenter, who put us all at our ease, asking good questions and made it fun and interactive for the audience – a real professional. Sitting in a studio, wearing headphones, speaking into a mike, eating live on-air and making comments about food to thousands of listeners is not a normal activity for me and once again I found myself feeling very uncomfortable at first! Now, it seems usual practice for the radio peeps to just throw you in at the deep end – they literally tell you it will be fine and stick you right in front of a mike and you are off. I was talking to the producer after the show and suggested that more ‘induction’ would be helpful to guests – but she pointed out that if guests are too nervous, it’s the presenter’s job to fill in and make it work and most guests warm up and get used to it! I never forgot the live element of the show, the time pressures and that there is an audience out there listening, but I did relax, start to quip and become more confident the longer the show aired – so they were proved right!
So what lessons will I take from these experiences:
- Preparation is everything – whether introducing a speaker or chatting about a specific subject – you need to really know your stuff
- Practice – I doubt many people are born fantastic at presenting and speaking, but by studying the greats, you know what brilliant looks like and can practice, practice, practice
- Be yourself
- Think about your audience – what do they want to hear, how do they want to hear it?
- Smile, speak clearly
- Ask for feedback and take points on board
- Say yes to opportunities!