Emma Bannister (pictured below) is the CEO of Presentation Studio and author of the book Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations. In this guest post, Bannister – a self-confessed introvert – reveals her tips on overcoming her people fear and becoming a success…
I have a classic kitchen bench, start-up story: creating avocado sandwiches in one hand for my baby daughter and PowerPoint presentations in the other. This was back in 2006 when I was a graphic designer and tech geek who loved PowerPoint. I was really clear and focused on my vision ‘making PowerPoint sexy’ for my clients, but, in truth, it also allowed me to hide behind my computer screen, where as an introvert I felt safe and secure. But then my business started to really take off.
Gradually, my team grew from one to two, then it continued to grow to what it is now, some 12 years later, a team of 30 people. The challenge for me has always been how do I run a successful client-facing business when often all I really want to do is go back to the safety of my screen and hide?
Face the fear
I grew up in a family that encouraged me to speak only when spoken to, so as an adult, any kind of public speaking, even if just one-on-one with clients, was one of my biggest fears. So when my presentation agency grew, I realised that I had to confront that terror – so I challenged myself to present to one of my biggest influencers, Nancy Duarte and her entire US Company in Silicon Valley. Incredibly, by facing my biggest fear, I found my confidence.
One of the best tips I ever received was to use that nervous feeling to my advantage, to reframe it into excitement and use that energy whenever I have to speak to someone or present. The biggest mistake we can make it to try and calm those feelings down because our bodies are gearing up for battle, not meditation, so we’re working against what we naturally feel.
Instead, when I’m nervous, I focus on releasing the pressure physically (jump up and down, run around the block, etc.), and tell myself over and over how excited I am – even if at first, I’m not! This turns that natural zing into an opportunity to deliver with impact.
Take time out
With time comes preparation and practice. I’ve presented and spoken to so many different types of people, at so many different events, of different sizes, that now my confidence has grown and I rarely get as nervous as I used to. The key for me though is to always make sure I have adequate downtime, which means being by myself, alone with my own thoughts.
While I love being around people (that’s a misperception about introverts) I equally need the space to think and process where I’m at and what my next moves might be. I might take a few days out of my hectic schedule to go on away with friends, but I’ll also make sure that I’m getting enough time to myself while I’m there.
I love nothing more than to journal, write and have space for creative thinking. That is the one thing I have learned that helps recharge and refuel me for the other times when I need to be ‘on’ and at my best.
I think as a creative entrepreneur and an introvert, this can be hard, because you always feel like you need to keep the cogs turning, but I’ve come to realise that things don’t just stop when you’re not there. Taking time for yourself to be yourself is crucial for momentum and so that you can be at your business best.