The First Breath: Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

My fear of speaking in front of others never truly kicks in until I get into bed the night before. As soon as my head hits the pillow, I subconsciously know I will be getting no sleep. My mind will jump from one embarrassing scenario to the next, predicting the upcoming failure.

As an intern at Quicken Loans, I was tasked, along with other interns, with finding aspects of the business that needed improvement. We were then supposed to research this area of the business, propose a way to fix it, and present our findings and proposals as a group to other team members.

The night before my presentation, I decided to try and get to bed early. Instead of drifting off into a good night’s sleep, I tossed and turned, watching the clock count down the time until my phone started buzzing, calling me to the shower. However, this sleepless night was different. The culture at Quicken Loans is so welcoming and supportive that instead of envisioning myself stuttering and mumbling, I was seeing new ideas and ways to improve my presentation. It wasn’t anxiety keeping me up – it was excitement! Eventually, the anticipation died down, and I was able to enjoy a few hours of sleep.

The Morning Of

I got to work early to implement the ideas from the night before. As I started building my presentation, I realized the potential it had. This was by far the best I had ever felt about a presentation. Once I had the speech down, I had a team member sit in and listen to me. He gave me a few helpful tips and really boosted my confidence when he said that he really liked it.

I headed toward the meeting room 45 minutes early. My group went over our presentation one more time. As people filed into the room, looking forward to gathering useful information from the presentations, the energy in my stomach began to shift back to nervousness. Once the 100-plus people were settled, the presentations began. With every word, my anxiety climbed. My nerves peaked when the first presentation ended and the floor was opened for questions and comments.

The Presentation

Finally, it was my turn to take the microphone. I picked up the mic, which seemed to weigh 20 pounds, took a deep breath and turned to face the audience. After I introduced myself, my team cheered from the back of the audience. I was the second to speak in my group. The first person finished and turned to me.

I was finished talking before I could think. It was like I went into presentation instinct mode. If you asked me what I said, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I know that I walked into the crowd and asked someone a few questions. I told a personal story, and I jokingly called out one of the directors for stealing my thunder. But for the actual words, I have no idea what I said.

The Aftermath

Although the presentation was finished, we weren’t done. Our group still had to respond to feedback. This is when I realized I’d missed things I had planned on saying. I left the room with regret.

Immediately after the presentation, my mentor, Kate, and I went out to lunch. Her feedback was the most impactful I would receive all day.

Kate knows I am a shy person. Her excitement told me that I had succeeded in fooling the audience into believing I am a confident, natural presenter. The more she explained what I said and how I had been funny and charismatic, the better I felt. The regrets I felt earlier were being replaced by pride. I felt proud of myself and my presentation. Toward the end of our meal, another Quicken Loans team member who saw me present, Kelly, came to our table to congratulate me on a great presentation. Kelly is a great public speaker (it’s basically her job), so her praise went a long way.

Looking back, I see that had my presentation taken place anywhere else, this story may have been different. However, at Quicken Loans, I have the opportunity to express my ideas in different ways. I was able to be more casual and entertaining. At Quicken Loans, my team members are encouraging and supportive. I don’t know if I would have given the presentation I did without the help of my teammate Kevin. He helped me focus my ideas and gain confidence. The cheer my team gave when I introduced myself brought a smile to my face and caused me to relax a little. Their support encouraged me to do my best. The congratulations from Kate, Kelly, and others helped me see that I did well. Overall, I learned that I have the potential to be a great presenter.

This internship and the culture of Quicken Loans gave me the opportunity to present the way I wanted. The fact that 100 team members attended the presentations attested to the fact that Quicken Loans wants me to succeed. Moreover, my team members truly care about me. They are the reason I can say, “I’m not afraid of public speaking.”

If you want to be a part of a team that supports each other and lets you express ideas in creative new ways, check out QLCareers.com to see if there’s a position that suits you!

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