It’s the stuff of nightmares: public speaking. While it was never quite my nightmare, it’s not my comfort zone either. Most likely because I’ve only had to speak in front of 150+ people a handful of times. The latest was DisruptHR Cleveland a few weeks ago.
I’m not quite sure why I decided that speaking at DisruptHR was a good idea, but somewhere along the way I thought this marketing person had something worth saying in front of a room full of HR people. In talking it over with the team at Willory, I received significant encouragement and support.
DisruptHR is different than a “standard” presentation in front of in front of a large group. These presentations are timed (5 minutes) and notecards are a no-no. I had to absolutely know my presentation cold and be prepared in case I messed up on my timing.
DisruptHR presentations require a timed slide deck – which made timing my biggest concern as when I get nervous, I talk fast. Incredibly fast sometimes. Once in high school I gave a scripted presentation in half the amount of time I was supposed to. I was a wreck. Since then all my presentation notes have had instructions to “BREATHE!”
Aside from my fear of talking too fast, Willory’s John Bernatovicz covered most of my other feelings in his blog about speaking at DisruptHR. One of the key things, at least for me, was putting in significant preparation. Without my countless hours of preparation, I don’t think it would have gone as well as I’m told it did.
My presentation centered on the idea that if HR and marketing work together as opposed to engaging in a sort of silent combat they can foster superior organizational environments with happy employees who enjoy their careers. Empowered employees are encouraged to become better versions of themselves, personally and on behalf of the organization. By joining forces, marketing and HR can create content centered on employees as public relations initiatives and recruiting efforts. Both disciplines (should) truly care about people and why they do what they do.
Beyond preparation, these three things were key to me being able to get up on stage without a major panic attack*.
This is probably the most obvious suggestion, however, it’s crucial. One of the things I found helpful was to work through my presentation with my friends. Some of them saw the very worst, while others were able to watch a more polished version. If you can’t present to your friends, you won’t be able to present in front of 150+ people who don’t know you.
2. Memorize different versions
In preparing for the real deal, have several different versions and variations. Figure out how to say what you want and internalize your options. This way if you blank on a portion you will be able to work around it easier than if you only know the one version. I made sure to have variations that could be cut or added to without thinking too hard. I stumbled once or twice, but I was able to recover fairly quickly.
John recommended I go for a walk and then practice giving the speech. An elevated heart rate after a walk is similar to how you’ll feel on stage. It was definitely helpful advice.
If you’re on the fence about taking a big risk and doing something like DisruptHR, I highly recommend it. Stepping outside your comfort zone is one of the best ways you can improve your skills and gain new ones.
*When the presentations started I had a very small freak out and had to step into the lobby and deliver my speech to myself.