Friday, October 30, 2009


I had a moment yesterday morning. A sweaty palmed, heart palpitating, nerve wracking moment.

This was the week for safety meetings at work. I'm employed by a mechanical contracting firm, and our field employees are brought in once a month for safety briefings and ongoing safety training. It is a rare occasion to have all of these employees together at once, so if there are any pressing HR matters, I make an appearance to address the group. We used to have one huge meeting, with all 100 or so field employees packed into our training room and overflowing out into the warehouse. Those were not so fun for me, as I'm not terribly fond of public speaking, and I always had to use a microphone so everyone could hear. Somehow the microphone multiplied the stage fright. But after 7 years, I've gotten pretty used to it, and I do a much better job at it than I ever thought I could. In the last year we've actually divided everyone into four smaller groups, and it's even less intimidating.

So you would think Thursday, when I had to address only 11 people, it would be no big deal. But ah! You would be wrong. I was holding a manager's meeting to go over some changes to our disciplinary process. And standing there in the room with 11 of my peers, in the exact spot where I had confidently contributed to two safety meetings that morning, I froze. I had all of my carefully prepared documents, my well crafted handouts, and a case of nerves the size of Canada. Days of preparation had gone into this meeting, but I couldn't get a well organized thought out of my mouth to save my life. I sped through my presentation, almost choking on words as I tried to cram too many of them into one breath. I could hear the slightest shake in my voice and I willed myself to slow down and pull it together.

After the meeting I asked my assistant just how terrible it was. She said it all came out fine, but the whole time she was thinking, "Take a breath, girl!". UGH! Why do I do this? There is no logical reason for me to be nervous in front of these people who I work with every day. Literally - I was joking with these guys 10 minutes before the meeting, but the minute the room got quiet and all eyes turned on me - whoosh - all the air in the room got sucked out and my brain went to mush.

Things people have suggested to me to remedy this affliction:
  • Picture your audience naked - Ew. No thanks. Also, this does not work.
  • Make prolonged eye contact, one person at a time - This weirds me out and makes me lose my train of thought.
  • Be prepared, know your content and audience - Check, check, and check. I've got that down.
  • Pretend you are all alone in front of a mirror - Right. What are all those people doing in my mirror?
So has anyone out there ever come across something that works?  I could certainly use the advice.

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