Remember how far you’ve come; not just how far you have to go.
No way! Those were my thoughts when I learned that I was going to need to speak in front of an audience…
This is my story, the story of how I achieved something I believed impossible.
Almost two years ago, I decided to embark on a new journey. The journey of starting a business…little did I know that I was going to need a lot more than just talent and willingness.
I took a course and got my designation as an Accredited Staging Professional. In that course, I was given a manual. That manual would guide me and help me start my own business. In the manual there is a list of 50 crucial things to do in order to succeed; like establishing my professional policies, establishing a business name and email address, obtain a sales tax id number, order business cards, open a business bank account…I followed each and every one of them and put a check mark next to each number as I moved on. One of those things was to join networking groups, the chamber of commerce, WCR (Women’s Council of Realtors).
I will never forget the day that I first visited a networking group. It was BNI (Business Network International). I was in Luby’s, with 40 other people having breakfast. I was enjoying my warm creamy and tasty oatmeal when I was told that I will have a turn to stand up and say my 30 second commercial which consist of saying your name, what do you do and what’s the best referral for you. I almost died! The taste of the oatmeal was no longer sweet in spite of all the brown sugar. I thought, I’m not prepared to do that! Nobody told me I was going to have to do that! What do I do? What can I say? Where is the bathroom? What if I hide in the bathroom and don’t get out until they move into the next part of the meeting… I thought, I have no option. I’m going to have to do this. When my turn came to stand up, my hands were shaking, I felt goose bumps and my heart was beating as fast as the hooves of a horse on a racetrack and my voice started shaking as soon as I started talking. I began by apologizing to the audience and making excuses that I wasn’t prepared to do that. I don’t even remember what I said, probably nobody even paid attention to my words because my cracking voice and my nervousness said it all.
According to the manual, this business was going to require standing in front of realtors and doing presentations about Home Staging. It is recommended to give at least one presentation a week in order to market your services and generate business.
I clearly remember one night, right before bedtime, sitting in bed, reading my manual with the soft light of the side table lamp on; “Making Effective Presentations – How to prepare a 5, 15 or 30 minute presentation.” Just the thought of having to do that was killing me! But as I continued reading I came to the part that said; “ If you don’t feel comfortable speaking in front of others, don’t torture yourself” PHEW!!! I don’t need to do that! I’ll do other things to market my services but there is no reason to torture myself with something I can’t do.
Fortunately, in the list of crucial things to do, was joining the local Toastmasters too. I researched TM Clubs in the area and found one close to my house. I was pleased the first time I visited. Everybody’s approach was warm, friendly and inviting. I was very impressed by the professionalism and by the member’s public speaking skills. I said “Wow! When in the world will I be able to do that!”
I joined the club and immediately started learning. I learned the importance of eye contact, body posture, I learned not to apologize to your audience and not to make any remarks about your level of nervousness.
One day before I had the opportunity to do my first speech in Toastmasters, I was asked to give a 15 minute presentation at Champions School of Real Estate and even though I wanted to say no, I said yes. I memorized the information and practiced, practiced and practiced more. I sat my family and neighbor down and did my presentation in front of them. I listened to their suggestions and said “oh well, there is nothing to lose.” Risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The presentation wasn’t that bad. I was nervous but at least I survived!
In Toastmasters, I started with my Ice breaker and tried to do a speech per month after that. Some speeches went well and some speeches were a disaster, but I learned from each one of them and from the evaluations given.
I continued presenting speeches at TM as well as doing multiple presentations at Champions School of Real Estate, real estate offices and even at the Home and Garden Show.
One day, as I was doing a presentation for a Real Estate office, I was feeling so calm and so confident that the AHA MOMENT hit me and realized that there was no way I could have done this a year ago. I have achieved something my mind couldn’t even conceive!
One day Kathryn approached me about becoming an MCE Instructor and to teach a 2 hour MCE class. “2 hours!! What am I going to talk about for 2 hours? I took the challenge and now those 2 hours fly by.
Sometimes you don’t realize how far you have come until you look back. Even though I still have a long way to go, I have now developed my public speaking skills and the confidence needed that when someone asks me to do a presentation I say “Absolutely! I would love to do that!”