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The Shortlist Episode 52: Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking

No matter your position or professional experience, almost all of us struggle with some level of fear and anxiety around public speaking. And from internal meetings, to shortlist interviews, to conference presentations, the AEC industry is full of opportunities (and demands!) to address a group or lead a discussion.


How can you break through the nerves, build your confidence, and make sure your message resonates? Join Middle of Six Principals Wendy and Allison as they tackle this challenging subject from a variety of angles, leaning on their combined experiences leading teams, coaching interviews, and delivering presentations. You'll be sure to come away with some valuable tips and a fresh perspective to apply to your next speaking engagement.


CPSM CEU Credits: 0.5 | Domain: 3

Podcast Transcript

Welcome to The Shortlist.

We're exploring all things AEC marketing to help your firm win The Shortlist.

I'm your host, Wendy Simmons, and each episode, I'll be joined by one of my team members from Middle of Six to answer your questions.

Today, we're talking with Allison Tivnon to discuss public speaking.

Hey, Allison.

Hi, Wendy.

Thank you so much for joining us on this topic.

I feel like public speaking is just in your soul.

I don't know if you started out that way, but you definitely have embraced it.

It's a comfort area for you, and we'll talk into that more.

But we started off season three asking questions of each guest to kind of warm up.

And my question for you today is tell me about one of your fears.

It doesn't have to be your biggest fears, but I'm just curious, you know, what's one of your fears and how have you learned to overcome it?

As it relates to public speaking?

I mean, it can be anything, anything you want.

Just to, you know, make-

I was going to say claustrophobia, but yeah, that's-

You don't usually have that problem when you're out doing public speaking.

As it relates to public speaking, I think I've had all of them, all the fears, which we'll talk about in detail later.

But one of the very first opportunities I ever had to speak in front of a crowd was an absolute disaster.

Oh no.

With me as a shaking mess, losing my train of thought, racing heart, my voice didn't sound like my own.

And I thought to myself, it can not get worse than that.

And since then, I've come up with some coping strategies to help make it over the nerves, which I know we're gonna dig into today.

Well, it's nothing like surviving your greatest fear to make you realize that you're not gonna die, it's gonna be okay, it actually makes you stronger and more prepared for the next time you try it.

And the reason why I had to ask you that as your warmup question was that as I was Googling for our trivia question, which is also a fun new part of the season three podcast, all I could come up with was that public speaking was pretty much Americans' biggest fear or phobia.

That's what you see all over the place.

I think maybe it's like become a wives' tale or urban legend that people would rather be dead than have to go up there and speak, right?

That's a thing.

Then as I dug into that a little bit, I actually found that that wasn't totally true.

There are other fears out there, but my trivia question for all of our listeners is, what percentage of Americans say that public speaking is their biggest fear?

And then, I don't know, if anyone just wants to guess, what are the actual real biggest fears for Americans?

So we'll go into that at the end of the podcast, but to set up.

So now get to the real meat of this subject.

Allison, why did you want to bring this up, public speaking for our listeners?

What inspired you for this?

Well, it's twofold.

I have had a lot of colleagues in the industry who are at that critical juncture in their career where they've amassed enough information to speak intelligently about the work they do.

And there are opportunities to get out there, whether it's a session at a conference or a webinar for a local SNPS chapter, or even just part of a roundtable where you can get up in person and talk to people.

They just want to get over that fear, the hump.

Like, how do you successfully connect with an audience and not burst into flames because you're so nervous getting up there to do it.

And then the second part of it is over the course of the work that we do with our clients and for every marketer working in-house at an AEC firm, we have interviews.

We have interviews that we have to help our technical staff prep for.

And even though the setting looks slightly different than stay standing up at a podium in front of a large audience, you are speaking from one to many.

And the group setting, the dynamics, it's not like you're at a friendly dinner party.

There's stuff that's on the line, you're being scrutinized, and with that, all of those same little fears that can manifest themselves when you gear up to stand at a podium can also be present during the interview process.

So I think that even though it's called public speaking, and that typically makes people think about a certain type of speaking, it also is highly relevant, the stuff that we're gonna talk about today, to helping our technical staff prep for interviews.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, that there's so many different types of public speaking environments, but from the marketer's perspective, a lot of it comes down to presenting in an interview format or sharing information with your colleagues, but in a more formal way than just maybe a meeting per se.

So as you were describing those feelings and emotions, the physical, all of that that you can have when you're about to be on the stage, I was actually starting to have a few of those feelings myself, right?

The racing thoughts, your palms get a little sweaty, like what is up with that?

Do you, in all your years of experience, do you have any like technical rationale behind those fight or flight experiences that we have?


Well, I think it dates back to middle school.

I think it is a fear of rejection at the heart of it, or a fear of letting people down, a fear of being judged.

And we are typically our own worst judges, and it's hard to remember that once you get outside the confines of middle school and high school, where maybe people are kind of rooting for you to crash and burn on the stage at, say, the talent show or whatever, you never know.

There's usually more of a sense of goodwill that exists within your audiences.

They've chosen to be there to listen to what you have to say.

They are in need of good information.

And I'd say for the most part, people root for each other to succeed.

So it's really, we have to get out of our own heads.

And the physiological responses is completely tied to the fight or flight that you're talking about.

That primitive part of the brain that's closest to the brain stem that controls your endocrine system and releases the adrenaline that all of a sudden makes your heart start racing because your primitive primordial brain is telling you it's time to run.

And so you need that adrenaline burst to get you to run fast, only you're not going running.

So where does that adrenaline go?

It goes straight into your hands.

It goes into your bloodstream.

Your heart is racing.

All of a sudden, you've got, your breathing gets shallow.

Your hands start to tremble.

You get that clammy feeling.

And then with all of those physiological responses, you get the psychological responses where your brain just starts to over process information and stimuli all around you.

You can't keep grasp on one particular thought at a time.

And it can really torpedo your ability to go in with confidence and excitement into a presentation when you're battling this raging war inside of your body.

That makes perfect sense.

I love that you started off with the middle school example.

That's so true.

People are sort of rooting against you.

They're waiting to see the train wreck or have the story.

It's probably even worse now with cell phones and things if you're in middle school.

But the part that I want to underline for the listeners is that in most cases, now people are rooting for you.

They are hoping, or they're engaged.

They're excited to hear what you have to share, and they are not as critical as it might feel like when you're up there on the stage.

I know we're gonna get into details about how to prepare for your public speaking.

And a lot of everything in life is about feeling prepared so that you can go in with confidence.

But before we move off of the nitty gritty of racing thoughts and racing heartbeat, do you have any tips or suggestions about how you calm those symptoms when you're in the moment?

What have you used?

Well, there's a trick that I learned from a coach a long time ago, I took part in this public speaking round table, which was really fun.

It was a one night thing, but they brought in a coach to talk us through some tips and tricks.

And one of the things that she brought up was to have a ball or your keys or something that's small that you can toss from one hand to the other.

And the reason why is because the locomotion of your body doing this movement of throwing from one hand, having to grab from the other, causes your brain to balance itself.

Because when you get extremely nervous and stuck in your head, quote, unquote, you tend to get imbalanced and you fall into one particular part of your brain that is like super lit up and the rest of it isn't.

And when you are having to coordinate, your brain lights up differently, and it can kind of get you, quote, unquote, out of your head to do something like that.

Now, if you have no coordination like me, don't pick your keys and be right off stage doing this because they could go flying out on to the stage.

You have to walk out there and pick them up.


That is a true story.

That's an icebreaker, right?

Sometimes you just have to shake it up and own the space, and then you can feel better.

Just randomly see keys flying out on the stage.

It's non sequitur.

Don't mind Allison over there.

I think that's a really great tip, and I like that it's also based on the physiological human component, right?

You're connecting two sides of your brain, and it's going to help you be prepared to go up there and be sharper as you're speaking.

I have a tip that I share with people, particularly when I'm coaching a group for an interview, but I know that there's someone who hasn't interviewed very often, or that just even has maybe come up to me and say, I would love a little bit of extra coaching here.

So my tip, and it works well for me, is just to start speaking before you have your speaking role.

That might mean, say you're presenting a quarterly meeting in front of an all-hands meeting.

When you come into the room, visit with the person next to you or as you're standing on the offside of the stage and preparing, just getting your vocal cords warmed up.

And I don't know, for me, something switches in my head where I feel like I am in control.

I am just deciding when to speak instead of maybe when I was much younger, going back to the middle school days of getting very tense and waiting to be called on, waiting for your moment.

It's like way too much pressure built up.

So of course, now as a consultant, I get the opportunity to speak a lot.

And often I'm in front of the room the whole time and just standing and speaking and projecting my voice.

I have that opportunity to be in that position at the time I'm actually talking about the content I am ready.

So if you get nervous about speaking, find small ways to start talking earlier.

And then, you know, you're a little more ready to go.

It's a form of self soothing, only it's not sucking your thumb, you know, baby self soothe.

It's like meditation almost, you're putting yourself into a position of comfort and tranquility as much as possible, like the fake it till you make it approach.

That's a really great technique.

That's totally what that feels like, right?

To kind of get the nerves out early and, you know, you're calm and ready and it feels easier.

So there's two tips in case no one can listen to the rest of this two good takeaways that have worked for Wendy and Allison.

Okay, so let's get into how you develop your content and start preparing for a major speaking event.

Allison, where would you start if you know that something's coming up or you've been assigned something?

How do you get your thoughts organized?

Well, I think that this is actually, it's not only the start of preparing for a presentation, it's the start of warding off that subsequent fear of public speaking that you will invariably confront in one form or another.

And it all starts with picking a topic that you're really, really into and something that you have had some sort of an aha moment around for yourself, something profound.

I take it that far.

Yeah, you can start, like if you're in a class on public speaking, you pick any old topic, and it's about the process of getting up there to do it.

But when you're actually going out to become a speaker, to go on the conference circuit or to just be one of the quote unquote thought leaders in our industry, you can't just randomly throw a dart at the big old board of ideas and pick one.

It's got to be something that is deeply personal to you, that there's a story wrapped around it, and that there is something within that story that once you realized it and you implemented it, it changed fundamentally the way you did something.

So maybe that sounds like a tall order, but to just put it in perspective, the first real presentation I ever gave was called Marketing at Low Tide, How to Recession Proof Your Marketing Department, which I subsequently went on to make the book about it, and it's paid dividends to me in so many ways in terms of how far out it has gone, how much it's resonated with folks.

And I directly relate that back to why I started talking about in the first place, which was I got furloughed during the Great Recession.

I went through that period of extreme uncertainty.

I saw colleagues within the industry get laid off.

It was a very tumultuous time.

It left its mark, and it made me think, why?

Because it wasn't just my firm.

There were patterns emerging throughout that event, and I started to think deeply about the why.

And when I got to what I truly believed were some of the answers, I thought, if we know the answers to this why, maybe we can curtail these devastating impacts in the next go-around, because there's always going to be an economic downturn.

So I was able to get up there and speak to all of the ideas that came to me on how to curtail it, but I also had that initial story.

And I didn't make the whole presentation about my story.

I did a little bit, you know, sprinkle that in there, because people like the personal stuff to get interjected into content that they're listening to.

It's inspiring, it's touching, it's humanistic, and it connects you and makes you relate to the person who's speaking.

But just that I held it inside, even though I didn't spend the whole time talking about it, it was my main driver and motivator.

Because if I could take that experience and make something good out of it, maybe then that would mean someone else wouldn't have to go through that.

Or if they did, they'd have better tools for how to handle it.

Yeah, you knew the story in your heart, right?

And so it was easy to speak to and share your experience because it was something you were passionate about.

Maybe that word gets overused a little bit, but that's what I was hearing from you.

And also when you were describing that at first, because I was thinking sort of this big format, what's the topic?

Like, what are you gonna share, what is this rolling around in your mind that you just need to get out?

Which is great for a conference or a big presentation on something you've been studying or researching, but also that totally works if you are a superintendent standing up to talk about safety for two and a half minutes in an interview.

Just spend some time thinking about why this is really important to you and having a story, even if you don't talk about that story.

Maybe in your career, there has been a near miss or something that really impacted you in a profound way.

When you can speak to that, even with it in the back of your mind or in your heart, then you're starting to make a connection.

So both sides, big and little, those stories are really important.

And you can also stress test it before you go to all the trouble of actually building out a presentation is ask yourself, is this something that others would find interesting?

Would others benefit from knowing about it and your thoughts on it?

And then ask yourself, who are these others that you're talking about?

Who's your audience for this?

Because in a selection committee, you know who your audience is, but really sitting and thinking about them, what do they need?

What are their motivations?

What are their fears?

What are they looking for?

Is the same kind of exercise that you would go through if you're gonna be speaking in front of a general, quote unquote, audience, which is never really just general, the people that are in there are in there for a very specific reason.

So understanding what that reason is helps you break down that wall between you and the people that are all seated staring at you.

It's so that you can see them as individuals in the room.

It's a lot easier if you're speaking to a lot of people, if you can somehow extrapolate out of that each person so that you also feel like you're speaking just to that person, but multiply it by 20, 40, 60, however many people are in the room.

It's an interesting technique and it's hard at first.

It gets way easier.

And one of the tricks to do that is look as many people dead in the eye as you can while you're talking and create those little tethers out into the audience.

Yeah, eye contact is a very powerful thing and we have to get comfortable with it ourselves.

But I've read many glowing reviews from your presentations at conferences and people really connect with you well, Allison.

So if you haven't had the chance to listen to Allison speak, I definitely recommend that, but also get to see her demonstrate that connection and that storytelling, which is fantastic.

Let's talk a bit about getting mentorship or training or coaching from people around you who you find that are really talented in this area.

How do you go about connecting with someone and getting advice and having them listen to your stories and coach along the way?

I think it's extremely important to not feel like you have to do this by yourself or that you have to somehow inherently be talented and gifted at public speaking.

This is one of those cases where you really do not need to reinvent the wheel, because there are tried and true practices for how to get better at public speaking.

And if you can find somebody who already went through the paces, they can give you some shortcuts.

And that includes everything from how they pulled their PowerPoint together, how they zeroed in on the main topics they wanted to talk about, how they got over their fears, how they were able to snag the actual speaking engagement.

How do you do that once you have a presentation in the can?

And how do you actually get a stage from which to present it?

So having someone there in your corner is really good because you are going to feel insecure.

You are going to need validation.

And having someone who you can do practice runs with, my husband has been one of my greatest cheerleaders, but he's also the one who asks tough questions.

When I have a draft of a presentation, I'll run it through with him and he'll say, but what about this?

Or this wasn't really clear.

And so it's good because I can see on his face the stuff that's really resonating, and I can see on his face the stuff that ain't quite hidden yet.

And so whether it's, and to me that is mentorship, even though he's never done public speaking.

If you have someone at your firm who you know is just really, really good at it and is known for it, great.

You can also go to your next conference and pick the speaker or the speakers who you thought particularly knocked it out of the park and just did a great job of energizing the room and inspiring people.

You see a lot of the pencils scribbling notes furiously or people raising their phones to take pictures of slides, things like that.

That's really the mark of a good speaker, someone who was able to get out of their own head and be present in the room.

Go up to them afterward, give them your business card and just reach out on LinkedIn, ask them if they would be willing to grab 30 minutes or an hour coffee, talk over Teams with you, or in person if they're local, and just dive into this stuff.

And public speakers love meeting other people who are into it and want to talk about it, because there's not a lot of people that are ready to get up on the high dive and do it.

So when you see someone who is, you really do want to help them.

Because once you break through the knot of self-consciousness and the fear, you can get to something extremely worthwhile and rewarding in this work.

So the mentors are out there.

Yeah, so you can start with someone who's close to you, who's going to be kind, and also probably is good at giving feedback in a way that they know is going to be received well from you.

So that might be a friend or family member or close coworker, whatever that looks like, and a good person to practice in front of.

And then you can go a little bit bigger if you happen to be out there in the world and meeting someone who's really impressive to you, or even if you don't end up talking to them, just going to conferences and listening to the keynotes and being inspired by the way they move across the stage and own the space.

And what does their slide deck look like?

How are they using visuals to help their story punctuate or land with their audience?

All of that stuff can be inspiring, and if you get lucky and get to chat with them afterwards, that is probably a huge compliment to them, that you're saying hello, and now in this world with LinkedIn and other digital platforms, we are able to be connected.

These are real people.

They're doing their best too.

So I think that's probably not something that everyone is thinking about when it comes to public speaking, is finding a coach, a close mentor, something like that.

But that's a really good tip.

Thanks for suggesting that.

In the AEC industry, public speaking is a very common tool for connecting with our audiences.

From an architect facilitating a community forum discussion, or a superintendent leading a safety meeting, or of course, there's always interviewing as part of a project pursuit.

I mean, the chances are if you're in AEC, you will be asked to stand up and present.

And two things that can really help calm nerves are practice and training.

Training is a huge part of what we do at Middle of Six, including brushing up on best practices for a 90-minute webinar, or facilitating a half-day or even multi-day mock interview scenario.

We love working with marketing teams to help develop best practices or just polish up well-established processes.

So if you need that kind of help, you wanna hear more about what we do and how we create a program that's really tailored to your team, give us a call, drop us a line.

We would love to talk more.

Okay, well, where do we wanna go from here?

We wanna talk about overcoming some of the fears, the things that you might be struggling with, that make you not even wanna start public speaking.

I think we need to dig into this one big time, because some people can manifest these feelings just by thinking about public speaking.

It's pretty powerful, potent stuff.

So yeah, let's dig into those common fears.

Yeah, all right.

Well, what do you think is the, I don't know, is there a biggest issue that people have?

Yeah, I think the biggest, biggest issue, and we hear this phrase a lot, is imposter syndrome.

Oh yeah.

It's that idea of people in the audience are not gonna think I'm qualified to talk about this.

Maybe I'm not really qualified to talk about this.

Who cares what I have to think about this?

It can really, really get in your head and keep you from taking the stage using your voice.

There's not a whole lot you can do other than just battle against it, which is what we do in our careers, is surround yourself with people who believe in you.

I call it your own board of directors.

Have those people in your life that are championing you, that really believe in you, and occasionally reach out to them for that just reassurance.

It's really helpful because it is an isolating experience to be up on the stage alone at first.

And that imposter syndrome can make your brain shut down to just that primitive part of it, and then boom, you're on that train to the hands trembling and all of the other symptoms that is uncomfortable to go through.

It's also uncomfortable to watch when you see someone going into it.

We are our own worst critics.

That's a saying for a reason.

And we're also so hard on ourselves.

It's like human nature, even if not all of the time you're hard on yourself.

I just remind myself even, but be kind.

Give yourself a break.

There's a reason why you were asked to present on that topic or whatever it might be.

Someone thought that you would have a great insight to share.

So start with that.

And then of course, you know, we've already mentioned things about being like prepared.

That can help make you realize that you're not an imposter on the stage.

You do know what you're talking about.

Or maybe you need to be prepared enough to be able to shift it to the area that is your comfort area.

But imposter syndrome is a real thing and it can be pretty devastating.

So just being kind to yourself is a good starting point.

Well, and another thing, I didn't mention this.

Handheld microphones are horrible.

They're absolutely horrible.

I don't like them.

And I almost to the point now where I won't use one.

I like lavaliers, the little clip-ons that you put on your lapel so that you don't have to hold something.

Because once your hands start shaking and you have to hold a microphone, that microphone starts shaking, it's almost like a force multiplier.

And the audience can visually see it, and it's just gonna feed the beast of fear.

And even now, and I've been able to speak multiple times at this point, a lot of times in a lot of different venues, I always wear pants have pockets so that I can put my hand, one of my hands in my pocket.

And there's something about, and we have another topic we'll get into about the magic feather, but which I keep in my pocket.

So sometimes I'm holding on to that.

But there's also those little pieces of it is that there's things within the room, there's things with your technology and those types of things that can also trigger it if something goes awry.

Or again, you have to hold the microphone or your PowerPoint deck isn't advancing or you decided to put video in and it's not working.

So there's the little things that just planning preparation and making some key decisions beforehand will really help as well.

Yeah, that's a that's a good suggestion.

I remember you telling me that a few years ago that you always request the level air mic.

And then I've just started doing that myself.

It didn't occur to me, but how much more comfortable it is to be able to use your hands, move them around, not worry that you've accidentally moved the mic one inch too far away and now no one can hear you.

And that's awkward.

I think we've all been in a presentation where in the back, I can't hear you.

So those things that you were describing about having a place for your hands to go or maybe a podium.

So you're not having to handle shaky paper.

All of that is about reducing you feeling like self-conscious, being too much in your head, feeling like the judgment is on you.

You're taking away some of those distractions so you can just focus on your words, right?

And I think that kind of helps combat a lot of the common fears that people are feeling on the stage.

Yeah, and just to stick with fears for one last little bit, there's that this is almost a nightmarish fear of train wrecking.

And to me, I've seen some videos on YouTube of this actually happening.

They're almost impossible to watch.

You just feel so bad for the people on stage.

It's that moment where you lose your train of thought and you can't find it again.

And your sentence trails off and you try to bring it back and you can't.

And then you stumble into this awkward, weird pause and you don't know how to recover from it.

And I saw one, it was like almost like a TED talk forum, I think in the tech world.

And this young tech guy comes out and the music's playing and he's got the lights going on him and he train wrecked on stage and he leaves.

Oh, he just left and he was so, he was like, in his head, he's like, this is beyond repair.

And he just walked off the stage in the middle of his presentation.

And, you know, maybe he's gone on to become a really good speaker because, you know, he survived.

But that is another part of this that is a very real fear people have is that they're going to lose their train of thought, which, you know, rehearsing.

We're not going to talk a ton about that today because to me, that's an absolute foregone conclusion.

But you absolutely have to rehearse your PowerPoint deck or you are going to train wreck in the middle of your presentation, almost guaranteed.

Allison, I feel like we have to cut this whole ass bullet point because you're freaking me out and you're freaking everybody else out that train wrecks do happen.

They do happen.

But I'm going to encourage everyone that they're always to overcome it.

And it's the exception.

It's not the rule, right?

OK, so if you were if you get caught, you lose your train of thought or you're just kind of battling those fears, you have recommendations on how to like regain your composure, get back to where you were left off.

How do you how do you recover from that?

I have a couple of tricks for this one.

The first is to take a very deep breath and breathe out and do it over and over again.

Find find your center and remember the audience.

So and another thing is that people are very uncomfortable with pauses when they're the one making the pause.

But for people in the audience, pauses are a little tiny gift to them of a moment where they can absorb and process what they just heard.

So if you're barreling forward with your presentation, you are not giving them that opportunity to take your content to a deeper level in terms of how they're internalizing it.

And those pauses can also help you with your cadence to get comfortable stopping every once in a while, slowing your role.

You can take the audience along the journey with you.

And just to your point that you made at the beginning of this episode, just talking more clearly and slowly and articulating and the tone and the volume can calm you.

And it can get you back into the right perspective that you need.

That being said, sometimes it goes beyond that.

And you just can't quite get yourself out of the middle of things.

You're still positioning yourself subconsciously as the they're all gonna laugh at me.

I'm gonna mess this up place and you can't quite get out of it.

And in that case of getting to the magic feather, you really do have to ground yourself.

And what I mean by that, to use the analogy around electricity, grounding it means that you're not gonna get shocked.

You know, it's almost a fail safe that you have to have in place because you're dealing with dangerous stuff.

Speaking in public is dangerous stuff if you're really not comfortable doing it.

But that being said, what I carry around in my pocket, and I'm holding it right now, so Wendy and Kyle can see it on the camera.

So this is a baby sock that I'm holding in my hand.

It was my son, Jax, from when he was about 18 months old.

It's teeny tiny, and his foot is not anymore.

His foot is bigger than mine.

He's taller than me, and I keep it for perspective.

I keep it to remind me of what's really, really important to me.

And that someday, on my last day on this earth, whenever that is, I'm not going to be thinking about a presentation that I gave.

I'm not going to be thinking about what anyone else thinks of me.

I'm going to be thinking about him, and my husband, and my family, and my friends.

So something about that, about the passage of time that we get such a small amount for our mark on this world, because it does go by fast, the older I get, the more I'm realizing that is a really good way to ground yourself to know that this is not the be all end all, and you don't need to take yourself so seriously.

Something about this little sock when I hold it just immediately makes me feel calmer.

Find that thing for yourself.

And I think we might have hit on this before when we were talking about interview training, and the superintendent that I worked with, the big guy crossed his arms the whole time.

I felt like I wasn't getting through to him at all.

And when I met up with him at a future training, he came up to me and he had a picture in his pocket.

He'd laminated.

It was a photocopy from his high school yearbook.

I think it was his sophomore English teacher.

And I swear, gosh, I get choked up every time we talk about it.

And he said she was the first person who ever believed in me.

And I thought, oh my gosh, and he has it in his pocket now.

He takes it with him to interviews, and he said it works.

It actually really, really works.

So having something with you is really good.

Some people use a rock, like a pebble.

I have one of those too.

It's millions and millions and millions of years old.

It's been here a heck of a lot longer than I have, and it's going to be here a heck of a lot longer than I will.

And there's also something strangely calming in that too.

So put something in your pocket.

Have pockets, so you can put a hand in there if you need to.

And if you feel yourself getting shocked by those fears, hang on to it for dear life, because it really will help you regain your perspective.

Yeah, that's great.

That's such a tangible thing, literally tangible thing that you can have with you to help calm your nerves and ground why you're there.

You're here to share something, but this is not the end of the world.

And I want everyone to just remember, we're all human.

We should be kind, give grace, be patient, and be patient with yourself.

And if you come at it with that, I don't know, in mind, I think that you're gonna feel more comfortable.

That's a grounding thing for me, is just realizing the human nature part of it.

And actually, I feel like we want to be real.

Let's be more real and less polished.

Let's really connect.

I feel like that's so important on the interview side.

And I would imagine, too, in the big presentations, you know, that opens yourself up and then makes that audience feel like they actually got to know a real person.

So, well, I love all of that, Allison.

Thank you.

That was, I feel like, the shortest version of presentation overview or how to overcome your fears that we could possibly do to kind of keep it within the boundaries of our podcast, but a great starting point.

And I just appreciate you sharing your tips, the real world tips, because I know you're out there speaking all the time and people really love hearing from you.

So these are proven things, for sure.

I want to just go back really quickly to our trivia question, which was about what are Americans' greatest fears and according to The Washington Post, public speaking continues to rank at the top.

So 25.3% of Americans say that they do fear public speaking the most.

I think this is like a survey that's about phobias, because they also had like fear of clowns and fear of ghosts, both 7.5%.

You know, I guess they said also that zombies are scarier at 8.9%.

So that's one way to look at what people's fears are.

But I thought I would just share with the audience, since we're allowed to go on these little rabbit trails from Google searches.

Chapman University does an annual survey, and so they had one that came out in 2023, so it was really relevant, like new, up to date, and they do the survey.

Quite often, it's referenced in other research articles, but the thing that Americans are most afraid of when they are surveyed is corrupt government officials.

No way.

61 percent.

And then economic and financial collapse, 54 percent.

So there's a longer list, but I was like, you know what?

I think, I'm glad I read that survey because you're so used to hearing about public speaking is the biggest fear, whatever it might be, like claustrophobia, fear of flying.

But we also have some other fears that are probably more, you know, I don't know that we should be afraid of them, but they're more realistic, right?

Like, they impact our day-to-day lives, things that are going on in the world, and a fear of World War III or whatever that might be.

So does that translate back to your putting it in perspective, when you're probably not going to die from having to introduce yourself in front of a crowd or come up with a presentation?

Yeah, I think we need to bucket these things into irrational fears and rational fears.

I mean, zombies are definitely a rational fear for me.

No, no, just kidding.

Thank you for letting me give the funny trivia, but I think it is kind of hilarious, and I enjoy just being able to go find out what the internet has to say about things.

All right, so to wrap up, Allison, want to just summarize some of your tips, things that you want to share as kind of our parting thoughts today?

Yeah, to recap things, it does start with your aha moment.

So for those of you who perked up when you saw this episode title and wanted to hear it, I have a feeling you already kind of have at least one that you could really wrap your arms around.

That's number one.

It all starts with the story, and finding the mentor is really important.

I'm also happy to play that, so reach out to me on LinkedIn.

I love talking about this stuff, obviously.

Fixating on your fears for a little bit is not a bad idea.

Writing down a list or your fear list of the things that just really make you clutch your pearls, whether it's the shaking hands or your filler words, which we all have, like, right, you know.

Find out what they are.

Sometimes your mentor can help with that as well.

And the magic feather is really, really important.

Find that one, and keep it...

I mean, even corrupt government officials, World War III, it could help them during that, too.

I'd say the most important thing for me when it comes to, like, rubber hitting the road and taking this back to Mr.

Rogers and the idea of, like, look where the helpers are is when you look around a room of people who saw your session description and decided to come in the room and sit in chairs and listen to you, if you look around the room, you're going to find people smiling at you.

You're going to find people that are slightly nodding their head, that have this, you know, sweet little smile and their eyes are bright.

Just focus and fixate on them.

I guarantee there's going to be at least a few, if not more, in the room that are truly rooting you on and truly excited to hear about the topic.

And if you really need to just anchor yourself to those books, because, like you had said, most people really want you to succeed, so believe in the better nature of people and just use that as a grounding force.

I love that.

That's a great place to end, and that is very true.

I know from personal experience that finding positive people out in the room can give you that good energy, and I actually have found that it sometimes makes me even more excited about what I'm talking about.

So look for the folks who are nodding and smiling.

All right.

Well, thank you, Allison.

I really appreciate you sharing this topic, thinking through this and jotting down tips that can help our listeners and maybe their coworkers.

This seems like a good shareable episode for sure.

I guess we will see you on the next podcast down the line.

Thanks for being here.

Yeah, thank you, Wendy.

This is great.

The Shortlist is presented by Middle of Six and hosted by me, Wendy Simmons, Principal Marketing Strategist.

Our producer is Kyle Davis, with digital marketing and graphic design by the team at Middle of Six.

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The Shortlist is a podcast that explores all things AEC marketing. Hosted by Middle of Six Principal, Wendy Simmons, each episode features members of the MOS team, where we take a deep dive on a wide range of topics related to AEC marketing including: proposal development, strategy, team building, business development, branding, digital marketing, and more. You can listen to our full archive of episodes here.


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