A couple of years ago I was asked to present at a women’s business conference. I was terrified of public speaking and I stressed for several weeks leading up to the event.
You see earlier that year I was diagnosed with breast cancer … I had undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and my treatments only finished about 4 weeks prior to the big event, when I was at my weakest.
I had many valid reasons why I couldn’t do the presentation, but I realized it was a big opportunity which would not only help me overcome my fear of public speaking, but that could potentially open many doors for my website design business.
And I figured if cancer didn’t kill me, public speaking probably wouldn’t either.
So I started preparing for the presentation … every day I spent at least an hour on it — initially preparing it and later practicing.
I doubted myself every day and wondered if I could pull it off:
- I was suffering from chemo brain, which meant I could barely remember my name
- I was weak from chemotherapy and couldn’t stand for more than 5 minutes at a time
- I lost my eyelashes and 70% of my hair and I was sure everyone would be able to tell I was wearing a hair piece
- I had put on weight during chemo and as a result I had very little to wear
- I was terrified of public speaking
- I didn’t know what I should talk about and how to make my presentation engaging
- I had limited knowledge of Powerpoint and I had never used a pointer or a clicker.
I decided I needed to work through each challenge to make sure I was as prepared as I could be
- For chemo brain, I practised every single day, so the presentation was engraved in my brain
- I asked the organisers if I could have a stool on stage in case I needed to lean on it
- I met a friend whom I hadn’t seen for a while and who didn’t know I had lost my hair — and she commented how great my hair looked … I was relieved to know she didn’t pick up on the fact that it wasn’t my hair
- I practised putting on false eye lashes — it’s not as easy as you think — there were many days I ended with my eyes glued together
- I managed to dig up an old dress, in which I felt comfortable. I also found some jewellery, which completed the outfit. And I decided that wearing heels was not going to happen — instead I opted for a pair of sparkly flatties
- For anxiety about speaking in public and to figure out how to deliver an engaging presentation, I watched videos on YouTube about public speaking and did meditation and visualisations
- I sat through a few Powerpoint tutorials and ordered a clicker for my slides.
Finally the presentation day came … and I got through it without too many problems. I was so relieved at the end, but also very happy that I pushed through my biggest fear at a time when I was at my weakest.
Why I’m telling this story is that sometimes in business you will face challenges that seem so overwhelming. Whether your business survives past its first 12 months depends on you and your courage to overcome challenges and solve problems.
Whenever you are faced with a big project, break it into small pieces, then tackle each one at a time and you will be amazed at how much you can achieve and how strong you really are.