I go red in the face. A lot. As soon as I’m feeling a bit awkward – which is often – I go red. Then I can tell I’ve gone red and go even redder.
This happens to me in everyday interactions so talking in front of a group of people is pretty much my nightmare.
Despite these compelling facts, my editor Chris thought it would be ‘good for me’ to host a roundtable recently.
This might not sound like a particularly big deal but, believe me, when you’re sat at the head of a table with 12 business experts staring at you, it feels it.
Luckily everyone was very kind and friendly but I was still awkward and, of course, bright red the entire time.
If you’ve ever had to do a presentation or lead a meeting you’ll be familiar with the sweaty palms, racing heart and blank mind that goes with it.
Even the most practised among us still get nervous when faced with speaking in public – including Chris, who gets up on stage every couple of weeks and is a popular host.
So why would anyone choose to continue with this madness?
Last week BusinessCloud hosted an event called ‘Learn to present in one morning’. The likes of ex-BBC presenter Gordon Burns took to the stage to share their advice and experiences.
After hearing the experts’ tips we had six volunteers stand up and speak for three minutes. They were so good that Chris had to stress several times that they weren’t prepped and planted beforehand.
The top takeaways of the morning were preparation, preparation, preparation, and to think of public speaking as storytelling.
There should be a beginning, middle and end, and it should be relatable.
We also need to change the way we think about nerves, said Wayne Silver of marketing agency One, because nerves are your body getting you pumped up for the task. Plus they always seem more obvious to you than to other people.
The energy in the room was fantastic and people came out of the event buzzing.
This is what I took away from the day – the most important thing about public speaking is that you do it at all.
Getting up in front of people is always going to be awkward, but in an age of increasingly digital interactions, it’s also more important than ever.
Texts can be rewritten five times, emails can come across wrong and even phone calls don’t completely let someone know what you’re feeling.
There’s hologram technology now that lets us give speeches from our living room to audiences around the world simultaneously and that might seem ‘good enough’ – but it’s still not the same.
As great as progress is, seeing someone telling their story in person and being vulnerable, red face and all, is unbeatable.
It’s the reason that investors get entrepreneurs to pitch in person, the reason we still go to gigs rather than just buying the album and the reason that the Best Man doesn’t just play a video slideshow.
It lets people have a human connection.
It also makes you more memorable and, crucially, everyone wants you to do well. If you’ve ever seen someone mess up onstage you probably felt sympathy for them and clapped extra hard at the end to show them you recognise just standing up there is a feat in itself.
For most of us public speaking is never going to be top of our list of things to do but even if you stumble, it lets people see that you’re human.
In an age of Instagrammers and picture-perfect Facebook pages, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing after all.