Confessions of an Extrovert…
It’s true. I’m a bit of a chatterbox. But that’s not what I’m confessing. Anyone who’s met me for a quick second can tell that I’m never really short of words. It’s not that I try to be the louder + more energetic one in social settings… it’s actually a low-effort reaction when I’m surrounded by people, regardless if they’re friends or strangers. You don’t have to be Carl Jung to label me an extrovert. *shrug* What can I say? I like people. I get energy from others.
Which makes my confession oddly contradictory : I’m terrified of public speaking.
Anyone who has heard me publicly speak will have a hard time believing this – I’ve been told that I come across as confident + normal. I can neither confirm nor deny this because as I’m speaking I’m usually having an out of body experience and generating rapid-fire thought bubbles such as “don’t throw up, don’t throw up” | “is this over yet” | “just breathe” | “no seriously, is this over yet”
I wasn’t always like this – I do remember a time when I didn’t think twice about talking in front of crowds. Ahhh, life was so much more simple back then. Lemme tell you – it’s exhausting making yourself nervous over something that will ultimately go fine. Especially when you’re a buyer and an inherent part of your job is to present ideas | strategies | results in front of groups big + small, formal + casual.
Wondering how I’m going to get over this? Well, practice is one thing – I do believe that the more I put myself out there, the more confident and comfortable I will feel. And the other part of practice is prepping – being prepared and knowing your audience means that there is little chance of being caught off guard and little reason to feel panicked. But for someone as chicken as me about public speaking, self-motivating myself to practice + prep is not enough. So I’ve joined Toastmasters.
Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills. So in addition to helping my chickenness + nerves, Toastmasters teaches the full art of speaking – this involves message tactics, listening, and thinking.
According to Wikipedia, Toastmasters has over 280,000 members in over 13,500 clubs in 116 countries. Target is home to two of these clubs and they make it easy for any headquarters team member to join. Target understands that meetings can be intimidating for anyone trying to get over nervousness, so they go above and beyond to make the structured learning environment friendly + supportive. Prospective members and guests are encouraged to come to meetings and return as often as they like.
I started attending the weekly Wednesday lunch meetings to check it out and quickly realized that Toastmasters is exactly what I need. I didn’t know anyone in the group when I joined, but now that it’s been a little while I have a nice side bonus of meeting people in non-merchandising functions that I wouldn’t normally interact with in my buyer role. It took me awhile to build up the courage to go for my first speech, but after encouragement from my Toastmasters mentor and fellow members, I finally took the plunge. I’m not going to lie… I was pretty petrified and had a hard time focusing the morning leading up to the speech. And you know what? It went fine. Completely a-okay USA. Member feedback was encouraging and constructive – my eyes were glued to my notes, but they liked my humor and story-telling. I talk fast naturally, and a lot of the feedback suggested that I pause more and give the audience time to catch up. All good things that I know I can work on for next time. Someone even said I seemed confident when presenting. ?!?! Did they not see my negative Nelly thought bubbles looming over my head? Apparently not, which means there is hope! I’m nervous about the idea of my second speech, but feel a bazillion times less chicken about it. The opportunity to present to crowds will always pop up in life inside and outside of work. I’m grateful Target has Toastmasters to get me past my fear. Goal one :: lose the nerves. Goal two :: enjoy it.
Practice + prep. Rinse + repeat.
Interested in a career in buying, planning and brand management? Search and apply for jobs here.