Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking

Last night I had the honor of being invited to speak to about 60 members of the Baltimore Bead Society.  I was asked to prepare a PowerPoint slide presentation to speak for about an hour.  I can do that!  I've always been pretty decent at extemporaneous speaking, and so using a PowerPoint presentation to aid my thoughts was going to be a splendidly easy thing to do.



I arrived at the venue with my computer and bead soup kits and a few copies of the book and a few pieces of jewelry I'd made in various Bead Soup Blog Parties.  I knew the group had a lot of regular business to conduct before I ended the night for them with the presentation, but I wanted to get there early -- I'm an early bird.  We tried to hook my laptop up to the projector -- and oh dear.

My technology was ahead of their technology and we didn't have the right plug to make it all work.

NO problem.  An absolutely hilarious lady drove me to Radio Shack.  Well, we STARTED to Radio Shack, but we were cutting up so much we ended up eight miles in the wrong direction before we realized it.  NO problem.  We can roll with that.  Found the Radio Shack, bought a connector, and zoom, back to the venue.

And then the projector didn't like Windows 7.

And that's when I started to panic.  A little bit. 

Actually, a lot.

Baby Zack is very, very concerned if mom can pull this off.

I sat down and nibbled a fingernail while I watched two people try to make my computer play nicely with the projector.  It became apparent that it wasn't going to work at all, and I had about five minutes to come up with an ENTIRELY new presentation WITHOUT the help of visual aids.  I frantically thought about the four pieces of jewelry I brought, and what I could perhaps show from the book, and how I'd turn that into a presentation that would entertain a huge room.  Five minutes, girl, and you're UP!

I have no idea what exactly I said.

I do know that at times people laughed (thankfully, not AT me) and there were some REALLY good questions.  The entire time I'm talking, I'm thinking of that really GOOD presentation I had that I couldn't even begin to use because how can I talk about design when I have nothing to SHOW?

It all ended up OK (I've been told!).  I was told by the coordinator that a bunch of people had asked her to get me in to teach (which I love to do).  I answered a lot of questions after the event and drove home in a daze.  What had I said?  Did it come out right?  

I honestly don't know.

What I DO know is public speaking is definitely not for everyone, and I'm fortunate that I like to do it and have had a fair amount of experience with it.  My video about the Bead Soup book, for instance, is completely unscripted.


My suggestions to those who have public speaking in their future:

1) Always have a Plan B.  At the last minute, I tossed jewelry in my bag.  Thankfully!  I also had in the back of my mind one line the coordinator had said in our last email -- see if you can talk a little about the value of blogging and Facebook.  Thankfully, that's a subject I can really talk to.

2) If you're going to give a PowerPoint or video presentation, ask the venue to bring THEIR equipment and load yours on a Flash Drive.  Or two.  Technology is a funny thing -- it gets ahead of a lot of OTHER technology.  So be prepared.

3) Remember that you're talking to people, and you're a "people", too.  I'll bet that the majority of the ladies in that room were a) so sorry things didn't work out through no fault of ANYBODY'S, and b) were really glad it wasn't them in front of the room.  So make a quick joke about it, and move on.  You normally aren't asked to speak, and you normally don't ACCEPT the invitation to speak, if you don't have anything to talk about.  

4)  Chocolate helps.  I add that because when it became apparent the computer was NOT going to show my presentation, I was handed a brownie.  And believe it or not -- it helped.  

Not everyone is a public speaker.  I enjoyed it in college, I enjoyed it in the Air Force, I USUALLY enjoyed it when I was in IT.  If you have a passion for what your subject is, that makes it all the easier.  Take a deep breath, come with back up and a joke, and dive in.  Ask questions when you find yourself in a "duh" spot and hope the audience will give you another talking point.  

You'll survive!

Just pack some chocolate.


Lori Anderson creates jewelry and bead kits as well as collaborative mixed media art with her son, Zack.  Visit her shops by clicking here.  She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party®   and author of the book Bead Soup.

Join her at the Facebook group Bead Soup Cafe for bead chat, swaps, challenges, and lots of eye candy!


  1. I have no doubt that you were amazing!

  2. Oh my! You are a brave girl! I struggle to do public speaking and I have been through the Dale Carneige class... still get sick to my stomach thinking about it! Sounds like you did a great job. I think it helps to speak about what you really know. And the brownie part really sounds good...

  3. Somehow I just knew you loved to do public minor was in Speech Communication in college and there is a certain thrill about it, isn't there? Once you get the throw up business over with, that bring your own bucket too! Glad it went so well...

  4. I'm glad everything worked out despite all the problems with the tech side.

    I'm horrible at speaking publicly, even in small groups. If the attention is on me I tend to stumble, forget my words, get tongue tied, turn beet red, and then quickly end the thing and maybe not making sense at all.

  5. I'll bet you were awesome! Public speaking scares me so much that I actually changed careers (not jobs) because I'd gotten to the point in that career where I was requested to make speeches to several organizations. I couldn't do it. So I literally switched careers and became a whole nother person! Professionally, that is. I admire anyone who can do that (like both my kids!).

  6. I'm sure you were brilliant. The unscripted interview is fantastic. If you came off even half that good last night you would have been brilliant.

  7. From the way you write your blog posts and how eloquent they all turn out, I have NO trouble seeing you breezing through a public speaking opportunity! You certainly have a way with words dear Lori :)

    I'm sorry nobody was able to see your presentation which was brilliant I'm sure, but it sounds like you winged it pretty well!

    And yes. Chocolate is a therapist in and of itself :)

  8. Anonymous5:19 PM

    How funny. I am sure you did a wonderful job because you write great posts. I know, it's not the same. Lol, you couldn't get me in front of a room talking to a bunch of people if you dragged me there! You jewelry is beautiful and so is your oh so cute baby boy!

  9. It sounds like you are a born teacher! I agree that if it's a subject you love, it's far easier to speak about it. Congratulations and I am sure you did great!

  10. Sounds like you pulled it off beautifully!! Good for you !
    I am NOT comfortable in public speaking. Had to speak to and hold a question/answer session for close to 200 people years ago and my knees shook so bad my skirt jiggled. :-D I use to hold workshops/training classes (varied in size) and as many as I did, I never warmed up to the idea.

  11. I haven't had THAT happen, but I DO know that my brain seems to go on auto-pilot (or maybe it's cruise control) when I speak. I know I'm clear, I know my point gets across, but for the LIFE of me I can't remember ANYthing from the time I open my mouth until I'm done! Scary or what?!

  12. Anonymous5:37 PM

    You poor bab, that's happened to me too. I was lucky that the college in question had a good old fashioned chalk board, so I used that and a lot of hand gestures.But honestly I think people prefer hearing an interesting person talk then seeing computer graphics anyday.

  13. Too bad you didn't get to give your power point presentation but I'm sure you did a smashing job while winging it and everyone loved it.

  14. Talk about making lemons into lemonade! I bet your talk was something folks loved and will remember. Your enthusiasm and experiences surely worked in your favor, whether you recall your words or not. I know your posts about setting up for fairs/shows and how to start a jewelry business have helped me. Hopefully this will indeed turn into a teaching opportunity for you. Good luck!

  15. Adding to using their equipment, you should also make a copy of the presentation in a previous format. I am thinking even if they did have a computer with a different OS, your presentation would not have worked.

    I used to be part pf toastmasters, they touch up on a lot of aspects of public speaking: preparation, eye contact, not using "umms" and "like".
    They were pretty good!

  16. You look and sound wonderful Lori... good job!!

  17. Oh so very brave of you - I absolutely freeze up when put in front of a group of people - even if I know them. No, public speaking is definitely not for me! I am in awe of those that can do it.

  18. Public speaking is sooo NOT my thing. I would have freaked out if something went wrong.. lol Glad everything worked out.

  19. I was given advice when I was in competitions when I was younger: "Everyone watching you is in their underwear. Imagine them in it. See? They are no different than you are." Sure it sounds like really creepy advice to give a very young kid, but it sure as hell worked. It is hard to get nervous when you level the playing field.

    I can't wait to read the book!

  20. Anonymous8:12 PM

    Oh my! Gotta love technology! Been there, done that! I knew you'd survive! You rock, Lori!

  21. The video is great and I have no doubt that your presentation was terrific.

  22. My worst nightmare is speaking in public! You have a gift, people are drawn to you, you're fun and funny and I know it was a great presentation, and you rocked it!

  23. Leave it to technology to fail at just the right time, huh? I'm glad you had chocolate to make things better -- that does the trick with me, too.

    I haven't done a lot of public speaking. When I'm nervous I start to laugh hysterically, making the audience laugh along with me -- which is both good and bad! ;)

  24. Oh my word Lori, I'm a member of BBS and couldn't get there last night, of all times not to ba able to get there since I'm a follower of yours. Anyway our group is comprised of a lot of funloving easygoing ladies. They knew you were prepared and you did just what any other speaker would have dine, punted! We've had to do that ourselves at times. And if they asked you to teach, well, it was a home run.

    And about the technology, well, it changes every fifteen minutes. Maybe we should work that out in the contract ahead of time. :)

    Sorry I missed you but sure you were great.

  25. I never thought I was much of a public speaker, but 80% of my work is teaching.....which really is public speaking, after all, isn't it?! I love this story. Would have totally thrown me, but sometimes when you're in a situation like that, you just have to roll with it and things turn out ok. And you've got a talk all planned out for next time you're called upon! Love your wee video too - and how exciting it was to see my name in lights there, scrolling down next to Zack! I must say, his design is one of them that I am most excited to see in person. He clearly has a good eye for colour, from all of his artwork you've already shown us.

  26. Bravo Lori! "just roll with it!"

  27. I am so proud to call you friend because I would have totally panicked! You really know how to roll with the punches!

  28. I received your card... thank you so much, it's really cute and I appreciated it so much!

  29. Congrats on pulling it off! I'm sure you were awesome :)

  30. Yes to all of the above, especially to the we're all people part and it can happen to anyone and it's okay.

    you should be very proud of yourself for handling an impossible situation with common sense and humor. And chocolate

  31. Oh, and PS - how AWESOME is that necklace in this post???!!! I love it!

  32. Only someone who enjoys it would be able to get through that:) It's ok that you don't remember, now when you go back it will be just like it's your first time. Congratulations for making it through so well.


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