Confidence with a shot of Vodka

Confidence with a Shot of Vodka

When I embarked on my mission to write about confidence this week, I was stumped. I know, I know. You are wondering, hey, Ms. Coach, who works with women on confidence, how are you stumped?

It isn’t that I don’t have a lot to say on the topic, I train women using visualization techniques, positive proclamation lists and shifting inner dialogue. It is more about having something NEW to say. Search the internet on confidence and it is all right there, everything anyone ever thought about confidence can be found in once search;

  • 10 tricks to becoming more confident.

  • 7 myths about confidence.

  • How self-doubt actually benefits us

What’s my angle and how can I make an impact in 800 words or less. I decided to do something different, I decided to share with you my personal story of doubt and fear.

I have always been a pretty confident person. As a child growing up, things came easily to me whether at school or in sports or making friends. In college, when everyone was cramming for hours, I would review my notes and do well on my exams. Into adulthood, when anything was difficult, I would just work harder at it to be better. All of this added bricks to my confident foundation.

Then I discovered my kryptonite; public speaking...

But wait, you ask, weren’t you in sales and isn’t your job to speak to groups and negotiate deals? My answer to that is yes. I was completely in my element when I had to present our offerings and creative ideas to a room full of C-Suite executives. I loved the challenge of negotiating with media buyers in a public setting. So when I was frozen with fear the first time I had to present at an event I couldn’t understand it.

Then it hit me, my kryptonite was not public speaking but public speaking ON STAGE.  

There was something extremely frightening about the act of heading onto the stage and staring into the faces of hundreds of strangers staring back at me.

As associate publisher of Ad Age, it became part of my job, one that I avoided for a very long time. Until I couldn’t. I was tapped to be the host for our New Orleans conference. How was I going to do this? The more I prepared, the more I thought about it, the faster my heart would beat, my anxiety would increase and my palms would sweat.

The day of the event comes and I cracked. I am embarrassed to admit thatI took a shot of vodka with orange juice, at 7:45 am.I went on stage, nerves and all and did my thing (voice cracking, a bit of a tremble in my body, it wasn't pretty).  I needed to find my confidence in public speaking onstage. I was an executive for the leading industry brand and I should represent it with poise, elegance, and confidence. Plus, having a shot before I got on stage was NOT a long term solution.

What’s an exec to do (besides drink vodka in the green room)? You hire a public speaking specialist, that’s what you do. I learned a lot, from my body language and when to use hand gestures to tone and eye-contact. There were even physical and mental exercises I was able to harness before heading on stage. I took every bit of advice and while there were slight improvements, I was still a ball of nerves, trembling on stage and needing to wear high-octane antiperspirant. (plus the nip of vodka was full on habit).

Now, what??? Something had to change so I took two very distinct actions.

First, I studied my favorite public speaker, Abbey Klaassen, former editor of Ad Age. She was (and still is) one of the most fascinating speakers I have had the privilege to know. She is magnetic, approachable, poised and so damn smart on stage. It was clear, if I could possess just 8% of her abilities, it would be an incredible improvement.

Then, I volunteered every chance I could to get back up on stage and speak.

  • Need someone for a panel discussion - I’ll do it.

  • Need someone to introduce sponsors at a conference - I’ll do it.

  • Need someone to present at the corporate meeting - I’ll do it.

Before I would get onstage, I would envision myself as Abbey and try to embrace her relaxed posture and confidence. I had a lot of missteps along the way; one time on stage my voice cracked so badly that I giggled like a schoolgirl and turned bright red. Another time when the speaker bailed at the last minute, I flubbed the new person’s name - and he corrected me —with a bit of snark to his tone and I was mortified.

Then it clicked. Just like that. Through visualization techniques and repetition, the fear finally left. I became confident on stage, it is something I really enjoy now, all because I faced my demons.

There are so many ways to build confidence. For me, the one that made me stronger was visualizing who I wanted to be and thenfacing my fear head-on, over and over AND OVER again. Growth comes when we step out of comfort zone, fail, get back up and stare down fear.

Marissa Bishop