I am an introvert. I like to contribute it to the fact I started my career as a geeky software developer, but the truth is I think I have been shy my whole life. I grew up reading books and while the other kids played on the playground I was content to sit in the classroom reading and writing–doing home work for fun (I know, I know, I was born dorky what can I say?). Over the years I have spent more energy than I would like to admit channeling my inner-extrovert. I have read books on how to make interesting conversation, how to hone my listening skills, and just how to communicate better in general. I have even taken 2 (about 5 years apart) public speaking classes (and both were whole semesters long!). Yet, still I would say I am very poor at delivering a presentation. I get nervous, I talk to fast, I read from my slides, I tremble, etc. This is problematic because when people look to you to represent a team and an organization–my lack of confidence in presenting falters the message I am trying to communicate. Needless to say I have realized I have to get much, much better at this if I want to be successful as an executive at a company (any company for that matter).
Besides needing to improve to help my career (and be a good advocate for my awesome team!) I am sure learning to present myself and communicate clearly can only help me in my personal life as well. So, as of today I have put together a plan for how I am going to work on building this skill. Here is what I plan to do:
- Attend at least one networking even per month and make at least 2 contacts. This may not seem like much, but I hate these things. I hate networking events more than any other things in the world. Why you might ask? I hate talking to people I don’t know. I have a hard time entering conversations and once I do I freeze up. Even though I can talk for hours and hours to my friends, put me in front of someone I don’t know and I sweat, fidget awkwardly, and look for every excuse to leave the conversation. This does not an executive make. I have to get better at small talk, and get to the point where I don’t have an anxiety attack when entering a conversation. One of my friends suggested that I get help from Ritu Bhasin as she happens to be a great public speaker.
- Practice my power point presentations. On average I do about 1-3 of these a month. Despite the evils of powerpoint, it is still the primary means of presentation. Typically I have gone over my slides, and in my head I think through the talking points, sometimes I even write them in that little notes section of power point. However, I seldom do a dry run. I am going to make a point of practicing from my notes for the next few presentations I have to do to see if that helps.
- Read “The Articulate Executive“. My wonderful boss suggested this book to me (and you should *always* listen to “suggestions” from your managers) and I haven’t even cracked the cover. Therefore I am going to read this and post a review of it within the month.
Got other suggestions? Feel free to leave me a comment. I figure this will be a good start for now and I can see how much I improve in the next couple of months.