Does public speaking make you uncomfortable, or even downright panicked? It did for me until new technologies helped me get more comfortable with it. Now, I’m teaching and coaching others that need to overcome the fear and leverage technology to help them.
Here's my story:
Grade School Days and Mockery
I was a very shy girl during my school years. Unfortunately, being good at school and enjoying sciences made me an even bigger target to other kids. A shy and nerdy girl - how cool is that when we want to make fun of someone?
University and Transparencies
I survived high school and made my way to university, enjoying science even more as a biochemistry student. After my second year, I found out that getting my bachelor’s degree meant I had to put together a 20-minute seminar on a research of my choice. How could I manage public speaking with my shy personality?
At the time, we did not have access to laptops or even computers on campus, so most people used cue cards and overhead projector with transparencies. Yes - I’m that old! I utilized the new “trendy” transparencies with Sharpies to reproduce graphics, charts and drawings to help me remember my talk. You’re probably wondering how this links to technology empowering me, right? Stay with me for a few more minutes.
Customer Service and The Projector
Fast forward a few years, I ended up doing customer service training and a Train-the-Trainer workshop, which allowed me to use a projector to do demos of the applications that the reps needed to use. This was a real treat, making me comfortable to share my knowledge without too much stress.
My employer then moved me to the instructional design department, where I developed training for telecommunications network equipment with SMEs. This is where I fell in love with new technology. We had to use PowerPoint to create visuals for our instructors! It was the Office 95 Suite, and we had to dig through many menus and sub-menus to access all the great features.
Yet, this was where my previous experience with overhead transparencies came in handy, influencing how I would approach the creation of visuals for our instructor SMEs. When asked to just add the main bullets, I made it my goal to show them how graphic elements, a few builds and subtle animations could make their presentation more impactful. At this point, I began to realize how much I helped others leverage technology to similarly deliver their training sessions in more efficient ways.
Training and Portable Computers
Next up? My employer asked me to create and deliver training for new portable computers to be used by network technicians. Back in the ‘90s, very few women were technology trainers, and I had to deliver it to an exclusively male audience. Can you say impostor syndrome?! To help me get a grip and do a great job, I made sure to develop even more visuals and practiced all my demos until I had the presentation down pat.
In 2003, I found myself out of a job, wondering what I would do next. Technology had always helped me, especially tools related to desktop publishing and training. My little inner voice kept nagging me with one idea: create my own business to help others produce better presentations and have fun with public speaking. The following year, in 2004, my business idea was born - it was ahead of its time (especially in the French-speaking part of Canada where I live), but I kept at it, and I am still a proud business owner and entrepreneur after almost 16 years!
PowerPoint and More PowerPoint
Since Office 95, I have jumped into each new version with excitement, eager to discover new features or figure how to use the ones already there in new ways. Although I was teaching how to use PowerPoint features early on, I also found it important to teach presentation best practices, especially how to make them more visual. I also learned to leverage PowerPoint's hidden secrets again: hyperlinks, custom shows and triggers so I could deliver my content in a more interactive way, even seamlessly skipping content at times when my audience did not have a need for a particular section of my training.
Superpower and Speaker Coach
Knowing PowerPoint's most powerful secrets became my own superpower when working as a speaker coach. I showed speakers how to use the tool in better ways to create content, practice it, and deliver it. The introduction of the Presentation Coach feature in PowerPoint for the Web is a great example of how technology can empower public speakers!
Embracing technology has changed my life in so many ways - I have become a much more confident woman and technologist because of it. I was able to learn how to best use it to master my fear of public speaking. Now I'm using it to help improve the industry in a variety of ways:
I have the most rewarding job in the world - Never doubt what you can achieve, and the fears that YOU can overcome with the power of technology in your hands!
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