How I Got Over My Fear of Public Speaking

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Class presentation for our PR campaigns class. // 2015

You’re looking at someone who used to sweat profusely, never made eye contact and avoided speaking in front of any number of people. Even talking in a small group made me nervous. But in this picture… I. Was. Killing. It.

My first memory of public speaking was in kindergarten when my teacher asked for someone to stand up in front of the class to lead our daily rendition of the ABCs. I had done it the day before, but shit, I wanted to do it again, so I did. And that day, I stood up in front of my class (again) and led our class through the ABCs.

That was the last good public speaking memory I had as grew up and developed a fear of public speaking. It didn’t develop until middle school – oh, you know, the greatest period of time in every teenager’s life. I was ugly. I was awkward. I was shy. So for me, talking in front of my class, or even raising my hand, was completely out of the question. While the pretty and sociable people in my class called for everyone’s attention, I was hiding in the corner and trying to hide my snaggle tooth.

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The only time I’ll show you guys a picture from my awkward stage. // 2006

Unfortunately I never really snapped out of the whole “avoid people looking at me” phase. I became one with the wall, and I was completely fine with that. Kinda. I was fine with that until I realized how much I loved being in the spotlight and making people laugh.

I was in my first public speaking class at the University of Georgia when I realized this. I had been a ball of nerves prior to my first assignment, which was to recite a three-minute speech written by someone famous. Most people picked historically significant people like Martin Luther King and Obama. Me? I picked Aziz Ansari.

So I stood up in front of my class and recited (with notecards of course) a three-minute standup joke that Aziz Ansari performed during his Dangerously Delicious comedy special. It was that first laugh from the audience, from my friends, that let me know that I was doing alright. Even though I stuttered a few times, I didn’t care because by the end, I had made a room full of people laugh.

Since then, I haven’t stopped trying to make people laugh when I present. My goal is to get my message across in the funniest, most informal way as possible because that’s the type of impression I want to leave on people. A younger me would have been scared of looking like a fool in front of a room of people. Now, I don’t care if I look like an idiot. If people leave with a good understanding of my point, then I did my job. *Drops mic* *Walks out*

With more presentations than I can count under my belt, I’ve learned a few important things that I think everyone should know in order to become public speaking stars.

Find your presentation style. Maybe you like to be poised and elegant like Helen Mirren. Maybe you want to be informal and relatable like Jennifer Lawrence. Whatever it is you want, be that. Go online and watch YouTube clips of speakers and presenters that interest you and mimic the style that you like. It’ll help you as you develop your own voice.

Pretend like everyone in the audience is your friend. Regardless of your style, if you pretend like you are talking to a room full of your friends, it’s a lot less stressful. First, it’ll calm your nerves to feel like everyone is supporting you. Second, it’ll be easier to recover from mistakes because like you and your friends usually do, you can just shrug it off.

Realize that mistakes are okay. Everyone makes mistakes especially in public speaking. People get flustered and tongue-tied. People stutter and fidget. Whatever happens, it is okay. People are a lot more understanding than you think, and for the most part, people are more interested in what you’re saying than how it’s delivered. No mistake is too big to recover from, so shrug it off or laugh it off. It’s not that big of a deal.

Force yourself to speak in public. That whole “practice makes perfect” thing that people talk about? It kinda works. The more you practice talking in front of people, the easier it will get because you’ll start to feel more comfortable with the environment of a speaker. They are usually in the front of a room, on a raised platform, holding or speaking near a microphone, etc. These things take a while to get used to especially when you’re in a room full of people. By forcing yourself to speak in public, you’ll learn how to quickly adapt to different speaking environments thus leaving more time to focus on the content of your speech.

Of these things that I’ve learned, I personally think that the first one is the most important. I have presented in front of CEOs, CMOs, VPs and executive directors. I have spoken to groups of ten people to crowds of one hundred people. In every instance, I have always remained true to my style. I like to keep it lighthearted and fun, and I never beat around the bush. I like to think that it’s my honesty that makes me relatable.

And to be honest, this confidence I have developed when presenting is still a work in progress. I still trip over my words and fidget with my hair. But I have made progress from the girl who couldn’t look anyone in the eye to the girl who can make a room full of people laugh. And that, my friend, is what I like to call: a win.

Let’s De-stress!

Three weeks into school and three weeks into the most stressful semester of my college career thus far. I knew I was in for quite the ride when I enrolled in a 15-hour semester, took on a 20-hour work week, and signed up to be the historian for PRSSA, co-logistics coordinator for the PRSSA 2015 National Conference and PR coordinator for Counterpoint Dance Company. The funny thing is that I wasn’t even forced to do any of this. I just wanted to!

A year ago I would have been so burnt out on all of this, but I have never felt better about everything that I am involved in. I wake up around 7 a.m. and usually call it a day around 7:30 p.m. On my longer days, I’m not done until 10 p.m., but it never really feels that late until I walk outside and don’t see sunlight. With the hours that are left in the day, I usually cook, eat or do homework.

Unfortunately being in class/work/meetings for the majority of the day means that I don’t have much time to decompress, and I’m just starting to realize the consequences of being “on” all the time. I have trouble focusing on one thing at a time, and anything that doesn’t get written down in my agenda doesn’t get done. I feel myself becoming more disorganized and frantic, which is super unlike me.

In order to combat the effects of my busy and sometimes exhausting schedule, I’ve been slowly implementing some ways to de-stress throughout the week. Here are my favorite ways to de-stress!

1. Work Out

Even if it’s for five or ten minutes, I make sure I squeeze in some time to box or do some crunches. Like Elle Woods said:

“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.”

2. Shop

For me, shopping is my favorite way to de-stress. Obviously this is the easiest way to create more stress for myself by depleting my bank account, but there’s just something that makes me so happy about having something brand new. Here’s my tip for this: only buy something that is less than $5 and on sale! Clearance is your best friend!

3. Paint Your Nails

I have a pretty extensive collection of nail polishes, and I’ve got a favorite color for every season. When I feel myself needing a little me time, I put down all my books, put on some music (currently listening to James Bay), and paint my nails. It makes me focus on one thing at a time, and it forces me to take a break from everything while the paint dries.

4. Get Some Fresh Air

Never underestimate the power of the outdoors. Now I am in no way an outdoorsy girl, and I will happily admit to that. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate it. Sometimes I just need to sit outside and just realize how beautiful the world is and how lucky I am to be a part of it. Nature, man.

5. Watch Dog Videos

I kid you not – I once spent an hour watching videos of dogs digging holes on YouTube. There’s really no explanation for this except that it’s nearly impossible to be stressed when you’re looking into those adorable puppy dog eyes.

6. Watch A Funny Show On Netflix

Laughter is the best medicine and a great cure for stress! So when I am in need of a good laugh, I go to Netflix and watch something guaranteed to make me smile. My current obsession is Saved by the Bell on Netflix because nothing is better than 90’s feel-good shows. And come on, who doesn’t love Zack Morris?

7. Spend Time With Friends

Although shopping is my favorite way to de-stress, this one is probably the most important way. The problem with being busy all the time is that you don’t spend enough time with your friends – you know, the people that you’ve laughed, cried, and probably took shots with? There is no substitute for a good friend. They know you probably more than you know yourself, and in times of stress, you need someone who will make you feel like yourself again. So always make time for them. Always.

Five Things I Learned at my Internship

Not many people know this, but over the summer, I interned with Turner Broadcasting System in Atlanta as a Marketing and Promotions Intern for TNT/TBS. It was my first big corporate internship, and I was definitely not confident in my professional presence. I walked in with a lot of misconceptions and made a lot of mistakes, but by the end, I was so grateful that I learned so much early on in my career.

Thanks to the guidance of my team, I grew immensely in three months, and now I want to share some of the things that I learned with you! Here are five things I learned during my first big internship:

  1. You may communicate differently than everyone else.

In one of my earlier posts about things I learned on my first day, I said that meetings consume most of the day, and that’s something that is true everywhere in the corporate world. Sometimes these meetings consist of three people and other times 20 people.

For me, I’ve never been comfortable in groups, and I always felt insecure at Turner because I was usually the youngest one in the room. I mean… who would want to listen to a 21-year-old with barely any life experience, hasn’t even graduated college and has absolutely no idea of how to communicate without using “fuck” in every other sentence?

It took me a while to figure out that I was more confident when I was talking to someone one-on-one. I started spending time with my team members one-on-one, and that’s when I really started learning about the business. I felt more comfortable asking questions and stating my opinions (something that I could never do during meetings). I felt better asking for help, and in turn, I was able to present some of my best work.

2. Co-workers are people too.

Even if you aren’t as introverted as I am, you can also learn something from spending one-on-one time with your co-workers. When we weren’t talking about work stuff, we talked about our interests, families, and hopes and dreams. I learned about their journeys through life and the things they regret doing or not doing, and in addition to the great professional advice they gave me, I walked away with even better life advice from them.

These are things you don’t talk about during meetings, so be sure that you take some time out to really get to know the people you work with. Everyone’s got a story to tell, and you can learn so much from just listening.

3. The approval process will drive you crazy.

This wasn’t something that I had to deal with directly, but I saw my teammates deal with it every day. Getting shit done in a corporate environment is not easy. They had to report back to so many people and make sure that every single detail was bulletproof or else they’d get sued. Keeping people in the loop was also a struggle because people from different departments all had a role in producing a final product, and sometimes there was miscommunication or confusion about who did what.

Although I never really had to get anything approved, I’m dreading the moment I have to jump through hoops to get something done because I’m so used to getting things done by myself without having to check in with anyone else. But I’ve got a while to work on that, so hopefully by the time I need a job, I will have had more opportunities to work with big groups.

4. Any catered food is good food.

My very first task at Turner was to order lunch for a meeting, and you would think that it would be a fairly simple task, right? Wrong, at least for me.

I’m not familiar with the Atlanta area since I’ve been in the suburbs all my life, so when I had to research restaurants, I thought I was going to die. I didn’t know if I should be basic and get sandwiches or if I should order Mexican food for a fiesta. And I didn’t know what restaurants were good. And I didn’t know how much I should spend. And I didn’t know how much food was too much food. And I didn’t know what types of drinks to get. And I didn’t know if anyone was gluten free or a vegetarian.

Basically I entered full-on panic mode because I just wanted to make sure everyone was happy with their lunch. But I learned later on that people aren’t all that choosy when it comes to free food. As long as you pick something that people like in general (sandwiches, pizza, bagels, etc.) you’ll be fine. But do make sure you know if someone has dietary restrictions because it’s cruel to make someone sit in a meeting with delicious food that they can’t eat.

5. Your insights are what make you valuable.

I don’t call myself an expert in anything except maybe celebrity news (thanks, TMZ). I used to think I knew a lot about television until I came to Turner and realized that I had no idea that all these shows were on air. The only shows I know about are the ones my friends watch and the ones on Netflix since I cut off my cable package three years ago.

I initially saw this as a disadvantage, but because I am a part of the new generation that doesn’t consume linear television, I had the advantage of knowing what strategies Turner could put in place to reach us with their shows. I was constantly asked about my my habits as a “cord-cutter” and what insights I could offer as someone who was in the majority of consumers today.

I didn’t think that it was a big issue in the industry until I went to meetings dedicated to reaching millennials like me, and it was such a cool feeling to be able to answer some of the questions my bosses had about the “cord-cutting” lifestyle.

Although I was pretty nervous about not having cable and working in the television industry, it was that very fact that made me the most valuable to the company.

Bonus:

Valet – I learned how valet parking works.

Before I begin, let me explain that I am from the suburbs, and there’s never a need for valet parking. My parents also refuse to pay someone to do something that they can do themselves, so valet parking never even crossed their minds. So can you imagine the look of confusion on my face when I went to a happy hour with my team and a strange man tried to park my car?

What had happened was… I drove up to bartaco in Atlanta for a happy hour with the other interns and our teams. Everyone started getting out of their cars, and I just assumed they had parked their car in weird areas. I mean, it’s Atlanta, and people park in random places all the time.

So when this guy walked up to my car and tried to open my door, I was like… “what tf are you doing?”

Which prompted him to say, “Ma’am, this is valet parking.” He had to explain the whole process to me before I let him get in my car. I was only slightly embarrassed, but hey… that’s life.

Budgeting Like A Boss

As I count down the days until I get my first pay check, here are some things I’m going to put into practice to save money.

1. Pack home cooked meals for lunch.

I know, I know. It’s not rocket science, but the best way to save money is to not spend it. For the past few weeks, most of my money has been designated to food – breakfast, lunch, and a little fast food run on my way home. But it has sucked the money out of my wallet and right into my stomach. Last week, I started eating breakfast at home and packing a homemade lunch to work, and it’s saved me a ton of money.

2. Stop shopping. 

Clothes, shoes, and nail polish are my weaknesses. I have more clothes than my closet can hold, and it just doesn’t make sense to have items that I only wear once. Instead of shopping, I’m learning to how to make the most out of what I have and restyle all my different pieces.

3. Create a list of expenses.

I am just starting to realize how difficult it is to manage money. I have been meaning to do this for years, but I am finally getting around to making a budget. The first thing I did was make an excel sheet for all my expenses like utilities, groceries, and gas. Now that I know how much money I spend on all of this stuff, I can make sure I don’t ever go wild and spend too much.

Five Things I Learned on my First Day

On Monday, I started my first day of work at my internship. With this being the first real-world corporate internship I have ever had, I was in for one hell of a wake up call. It wasn’t good or bad, just different, and I quickly realized that I have a lot to learn. Here are the five things that I learned on my first day of work:

1. Meetings consume most of your day.

How does anyone get stuff done if they are in meetings all day? This was the first thought I had as watched the third meeting of the day wrap up. With only an hour and a half left in the day, I was wondering how I was going complete all the new hire paperwork they gave me at orientation. Luckily, the paperwork isn’t due until next week, so I have some time. But I learned that whatever it is that you have to do that day, you better learn to do it quick! And you will use up every last second of each minute. That’s how people get stuff done.

2. Acronyms… learn them.

The first meeting I sat in was over legal matters for a marketing plan. I was hearing “S&P”, “TMG”, and “MSA” among the tons of other acronyms that they used. Of course the best plan of action is to ask what they all stand for, so make sure you speak up and ask about it if you don’t figure it out.

3. No one will tap you on the shoulder to tell you your day is done.

The clock strikes five, and you’re sitting there waiting for a bell or for people to leave in large masses like they do from an auditorium… except in the real world, this doesn’t happen. There’s no shuffling of papers or backpacks being zipped up. Everyone leaves at different times, so you kind of just work until you decide that it’s time to go. You don’t have to report to anyone or say bye. You can just walk out!

4. Heels may be a bad idea.

Oh lord, my feet. I was in so much pain at the end of the day that I limped to my car. I was not expecting to be on my feet that much, but I ended up running to meetings, standing around desks, walking to lunch, and touring the buildings, and by the end of the day, I took off my shoes and drove barefoot. So guess what I wore the next day: flats.

5. No one will hold your hand.

From the very start, I was handling things on my own. I was left alone with my computer, and I had to figure out how to set it up. If you know me, you know I am technologically challenged, so instead of trying to figure it out for myself, I learned how to use the desk phone and gave the IT department a call.