Lessons learned from pitching Hell

People fear public speaking more than they do death.

I stood at the front, feeling the weight of every eye in the room. I could feel the heat rising in my face and my pounding heart in my head. “Make it stop!”

Shaky and trembling I gave my pitch. I kept going even though I badly wanted to run out of the room, jump on a boat and sail away to a deserted island.

This was my experience pitching to an angel investor group 2 years ago.

Have you ever wondered why nervousness like this attacks you just when it’s important to be confident, cool, calm and collected?

If you’ve ever experienced anything like what I’ve described above, you will know just how mortifying it is to feel like you haven’t powerfully delivered your message.

People fear public speaking more than death

The reality is, though, many people feel that way. Did you know that public speaking is more feared than death statistically?

The funny thing is when I feel empowered and in my element, I have no problem speaking on a stage. I don’t get nervous when delivering workshops or even singing to a large crowd in performance (yes, I sing). I have only ever gotten nervous when pitching.

The problem with this is, my lack of confidence when pitching has really hampered my ability to convey my message. And every time I’d get up to pitch I would feel sick like I was going to pass out.

I thought that I was doomed to pitching hell. Other people could do it well, why did I struggle so much?

Thankfully, I discovered what was getting in my way a few months ago.

It’s what and who you focus on that counts

Late last year, I gave a pitch at Fishburners, shortly after my sister passed away.

I was actually pretty unwell at the time, had a terrible cough and was also feeling raw from our family’s tragedy. However, I had a huge “aha” moment that helped me push through.

My sister was not glamorous. She was down to earth and pragmatic. She had a quiet voice but when she got in a room of high-powered people in governments and in corporations, she owned that room. Why? Rebecca was about as authentic as a person could be and she always focused on others.

She would notice what mattered most to others, build rapport quickly and then ask for what she wanted. She was known as the world expert in her field and she didn’t have to pretend to be anything she wasn’t in order to achieve that status.

There were over 300 people at her funeral and 20 of her work colleagues flew in from Singapore just to pay their last respects.

I was deeply moved by this show of support, but not surprised.

Back at Fishburners, the day after the funeral, Sarah, the community events manager, asked me if I still wanted to pitch. I knew my sister would want me to, so I said, “of course.”

It was one of the best pitches I have ever done.

What was different?

I didn’t try to perform and didn’t think about looking good. I knew a coughing, hacking speaker wasn’t going to help so I just chose to let go of any ideas I had of being elegant. Miraculously though, I got through the entire pitch without coughing once.

In fact, because I focused on my vision and not on myself, I was able to inspire the audience to see the possibility of what I wanted to create: A world where people communicate well and thrive because of it.

A world that communicates well is a world that works

The Great Blog Challenge is the beginning of a journey toward empowering people to build their confidence and hone their skills as writers, speakers and communicators. I believe anyone can communicate well if given the right support.

The Challenge (and what we’re creating out of it) is my contribution to a world that badly needs better communicators.

  • Business owners want to be seen and heard above the noise online.
  • Companies want employees that communicate well and can articulate their thoughts clearly, not to mention help promote their brand as well.
  • Governments want future generations to communicate well because a world that communicates well is a world that thrives.

The best way to future proof our kids is to teach them how to communicate effectively especially when you consider that most of the job opportunities in the future will be knowledge-based.

It’s no longer enough to have really smart people. We need smart people who can be understood to be competitive in the global marketplace.

When fueled with determination about the world I want to create, I don’t get nervous. The stakes are too high. I have kids and I want them to have a future. I want a world that works.

The Great Blog Challenge is just the beginning. We are creating a platform that will build on what we’ve learned from the past and I look forward to sharing more about that in the future.

If you’d like to know how you can participate in the Challenge or you’d like to know more about where we’re going, reach out on LinkedIn.

Bestselling author, Cofounder @wityayl, Copywriter, What’s Important Now podcast host, founder Your Story Bank.

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