“Angela, it’s your turn.”
I hesitantly looked up from my notebook, carefully avoiding the gaze of my coworkers and strategically turning my head away from my boss — the most intimidating person of all.
I spoke quickly, succinctly, and left no time for air to enter or leave my lungs. In one long sentence, I said my piece and put my head back down.
There. It was done.
Who knows what I said. I could never remember even a few seconds after I finished. I don’t know what people were thinking. I don’t even know what I was thinking. I just wanted it to end. Week after week, I endured the same torturous 60-second team meeting update.
I vividly remember the feeling of panic each time I sat down in those team meetings at the radio station where I worked. Just the thought of saying a few sentences out loud was enough to make me want to call in sick. I often wondered if anyone else could sense just how deep my fear was. Did they know how much my palms were sweating under the table? Could they see how hot my ears were? Every time my turn was next, I would have to force myself to stay in my chair and not sprint out of the room. My fear of public speaking brought up the most intense anxiety and insecurity I had ever experienced and it never seemed to get better.
This story took place 11 years ago, at the beginning of my career, when I was one of the shyest people you could ever meet. I went out of my way to disappear, to fade away, to be invisible. I wanted to make something of myself, but I didn’t want to be the center of attention. I wanted to get promoted, but I didn’t want to advocate for myself. I wanted to be recognized for my ideas, but I didn’t want to say them out loud. I hoped others would notice me and push me to the top. This cycle of hoping, wishing, and wondering was both infuriating and depleting.
After spending a couple of years at the radio station, I made an eye-opening discovery that would forever change the course of my life. The discovery took place during a company-wide meeting when several staff members got up to present speeches over the course of the day. I noticed the people who were confident, clear, and got their point across with ease were the ones everyone was listening to. I also noticed the speakers who got up and nervously stumbled through their presentations were not as effective or engaging. Most people got up to grab another coffee or a bagel while they were speaking.
I realized that day that public speakers have a lot of power. I also realized that the best public speakers also happened to hold leadership positions in my company. Could this be a coincidence?
Could it be possible that in order to be a leader, one also needed to know how to express ideas and stories effectively?
Did this mean public speaking was a skill I — gulp — could no longer avoid and would need to learn?
This question lingered in my mind each time it was my turn to give my 60-second update. Rather than dread it, what if I could learn to embrace it? And, what if I could find the courage to build my public speaking skills? What would I be capable of then? Was there more for me than hoping, wishing, and wondering if one day someone would notice my gifts and help me move up in my career?
What if I could speak up for myself?
In 2006, I made the hard decision of learning the skill of public speaking. This decision was not only gut wrenching, but it also led to more tearful growth experiences than I can count. I found out that I didn’t have to be shy, I could speak up. I learned that I have important things to say that can change other people’s lives. I realized I am a leader. I surprised myself by all that I have to offer. I learned all of this through my public speaking journey and the 700+ speeches I have given to date. I found out there is an entire secret life that emerges from speaking up and I can’t wait until you find it when giving speeches at Speaker Sisterhood meetings. All you need is in the experience, the community, and the journey.
See you there.
Award-Winning Professional Speaker, Author, CEO + Founder
Angela Lussier is the founder of the Speaker Sisterhood and also an award-winning speaker, three-time author, and two-time TEDx presenter. She is the host of Claim the Stage, a public speaking podcast for courageous women. Her motto: Stop waiting. Start creating.