Show-and-tell is harder than it looks

D’you ever get nervous speaking in front of a crowd? Of course you have. Who hasn’t right?

I’ve worked for years on my presentation style. I’ve had practice pitching to large auditoriums of people, in one-on-one meetings, at formal boards-of-director meetings and over informal “coffees.” I’ve found that speaking to a large audience is less personal for me, so I find it easiest to do.

I always thought that it was my routine – and the training – that made it easy. You see, for large groups I have developed a “candid” approach that has proven successful – I offer up a bit of self-deprecating commentary, a change in tone, add a few familiar phrases and I’ve got an audience hooked!

So what’s my point?

Well, recently I found myself terror-stricken while presenting my ButterBoo ideas in front of a medium-sized group of local business leaders. Panicked you might say – right there at 7:30 AM at the River Edge Diner.

It was there that I realized that 95+% of the content with which I have worked professionally was developed by or for my employer. Of course, the ideas I integrated into any “sketch” or “bit” might have been developed by me – but at the end of day, the intellectual property wasn’t MINE.

The remaining 5% has been in front of audiences interested in my career – and how super easy is that? There is NO ONE that knows my life better than me, so who could get nervous about delivering THAT content?

Fast forward to my recent experiences with pitching ButterBoo and – WOW – let me tell you: THAT was a humbling experience I was not prepared for!

I had no idea it would be so hard to sell an idea that I care so passionately about. An idea where the content, the intellectual property, the execution – every little bit of the story – all of it reflects on me. The idea of someone saying, “thanks, but no thanks” is horrifying. And, it would be impossible for me not to take that personally.

What the experience HAS done for me is to make me think back to before I had a degree to point to, a college brand to leverage, a sorority to belong to, a masters degree to propel me forward, a firm’s logo on by business card – and remember that I had my own ideas.

You know what else? Back before all that “baggage,” I don’t remember being panicked about presenting my show-and-tell in grammar school, but I guess that’s because I didn’t know any better.

Importantly, this eye-opening experience gave me a new sense of respect for local business owners – because THEY do this every day. When you work for yourself there is no air cover or benefit from mere association with the firm/brand/company you work for – nope, sole proprietors just stand up in front of the proverbial “classroom” and tell it like it is.

So I suppose the message of this post is this: the next time you have the choice – either to support a small or local business; or buy something from a national vendor – consider giving the small guy a shot.

Knowing that the small guy is putting THEMSELVES on the line every day, I can GUARANTEE the implied vote of confidence will have more than just a positive impact on that business’s top line.

One comment

  1. Dawn Pols · · Reply

    Kate,
    I’m glad BNI was a worthwhile experience for you. You’re so articulate, knowledgeable and confident that it never crossed my mind you would be terrified. I’ve been a member of BNI about a year now and I am still nervous every time I have to give that 60 second pitch!

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