Many people assume when they see a great presenter that they were born that way. There is an implication that good presentation skills or a comfort in getting up in front of an audience are built into our DNA. I am living proof that this is not the case.
For more than a decade, my primary occupation has been as a trainer, facilitator and presenter. I honed my craft over the years and developed a level of competence and confidence that comes from doing it again and again and again. And, when I am teaching presentations skills to groups or individuals, they often ask if this came naturally to me. I always laugh because I can commiserate with these people. I actually understand their struggles. I was once just like them.
My story is that I have always been fascinated with communication styles and was a frequent observer of others. When I was a young boy, my mother worked in the kitchen in schools and I would often go to visit and observe her in her environment. As I sat in the corner on a milk crate, watching my mother interact with her co-workers or the children she served, I was fascinated by how she changed her style with each one of them, ensuring that she was communicating in an intentional way to illicit specific reactions. I marveled at how naturally her style shifted when she was speaking to the other ladies in the kitchen and then shifted right back when she addressed the children. I understood, even if in a very primitive way, that her behavior was defining the way each person responded to her. And so it began for me. I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what seemed like a phenomenon back then. I wanted to learn how to consciously use this dynamic to enable more effective communication.
Despite my innate interest in communication, I have not always been particularly good at it. In fact, early in my career, I tended to avoid opportunities to speak in public. I would often try to be offsite when I had to present to senior leaders in my group so I would not have to be observed. I knew I was not a good presenter and I didn’t want to be seen as weak. I thought, if I was not physically present, that I could mask many of my challenges but, instead, what I was doing was manifesting a different roadblock for myself. I limited my career mobility because, even though I thought I was shielding my managers from my shortcomings, I was actually showcasing them in a bright spotlight because I was hiding. I learned quickly that this was not going to serve me well in my career and I had to figure out how to tackle my problems.
I took the problem head on and put myself in the most vulnerable spot I could by becoming a trainer. I knew I had to develop my skills and I also knew that by becoming a trainer, I would be forced to demonstrate these skills at all time. And, I realized that, deep down, that this was what I was meant to do. My fascination as a child ran deep in my veins and I recognized that I could not avoid diving into this pool. It was only a matter of time.
I understand the challenges and fears of every single person I train. I have walked in their shoes. I have had the same thoughts, insecurities and anxieties that have coursed through their bodies and minds. Sometimes, I still do. Even with all my experience, I get nervous or insecure about different presentations. But, for me, I know that I have my skills that I have practiced over and over, year after year, to rely upon to help get me past the difficulties.
When I founded t3, I had one goal in mind. I wanted to create an opportunity for people to feel good about themselves, develop confidence and see how capable they actually are. I wanted to take my experience of working with thousands of people – 10 or 20 at a time – and bring it to the masses. I want to change the way people learn, communicate and feel about themselves. As a trainer, there is no greater experience than seeing people have breakthroughs - the "a-ha" moment when the lightbulb goes off. When someone walks away from one of my training sessions with just one thing that makes them feel better, they will improve. And, I would like to see that happen for everyone - not just the people who get the benefit of going through training. Everyone deserves to the opportunity to transform themselves and that's what we are trying to facilitate.
That’s just a little piece of my story that I share to let you know that we all struggle and we can all overcome. Please share your story with us. We want to hear all about it! Tell us what you have struggled with. Post a message on our Facebook page. Please join our community of storytellers!