I know you won’t believe me, but …

… as a kid I was painfully shy. I didn’t walk beside my mother, I crept along behind her. And if I could have crawled under her skirt, I would happily have done so. Seriously. For that matter I wasn’t a particularly outgoing adult for much of my life either.

Hard to believe when you look at this photo, I know, but it’s true.

I still get clammy palms when I think back to the first time I was part of a major creative presentation, to a major client. Huge client, presenting to the president and CEO and I was new to the account and the agency. Hell, I was new to Toronto.

To make matters worse, I’d had no presentation training,
and there’d been no rehearsals.

Yeah, I was a wreck. I prayed that I’d get run over — by anything — a cyclist, a truck, a bus, an uprooted tree — but I had no such luck. No food poisoning, no bites from a rabid dog, no getting stuck for hours in an elevator, no getting struck by lightening either.

D-Day arrived. Let me set the stage for you. The presentation was to start at 5:30. So I had all day to fret about it. The client was more than an hour late. I was to be the last of about 20 presenters. The client asked endless questions during each presentation.

By the time it was my turn my heart was pounding so hard I could hear the blood whooshing. There was no saliva in my mouth, none.  I could barely breathe and my hands were shaking so badly the copy deck I was holding had taken on a life of its own and I couldn’t keep it still.

How I got through it alive I will never know. Short of losing loved ones it was, hands down, the worst moment of my life.

Eventually I did get some presentation skills training and my boss, who was a fabulous presenter, told me that all I needed to do was relax, find my own style and have fun with it.

For some reason her words really resonated and I was finally able to come out of my shell. After that there was no turning back. As evidenced by this photo.

Who would have believed that the once shy, retiring Fransi Weinstein, would have no problem donning this absurd hat for a day? Who would have believed that the once shy, retiring Fransi Weinstein would gleefully prance through the lobby of Mt. Sinai Hospital, not to mention up and down University Avenue, accosting strangers and asking them to buy daffodils for cancer research? I’ve come a long way, baby.

April is daffodil month. I’m not sure the many volunteers who generously give of their time for this good cause will be wearing silly hats, but please give anyway.



14 thoughts on “I know you won’t believe me, but …

  1. Public speaking has always terrified me. I’ve been through live training, read professional material and attended webinars. Nothing helps. Part of my problem is that my nerves are transparent, which naturally makes the audience nervous, and the tension fuels my nerves. So it’s a vicious cycle. I like the simple advice of finding your own style and having fun with it. I will try to remember that.

    • It really worked and I got to the point where I really did enjoy it. I even found myself accepting invitations to make speeches.

      • … and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Not so that you end up looking and sounding like a robot, but so you are familiar with what you’re going to say and your timing is good.

      • Yes, I have started to record myself on my iPhone. I had been using a script as a crutch and then realized it sounded scripted. Duh. But awareness is good, so I’ll keep doing that.

      • Recording yourself is a great idea. Yeah, scripts don’t work, it’s just a matter of knowing what you want to say and getting your thoughts organized. And then, the more you do it the better you become.

  2. I shared your fear of presenting, even though I’d trained all through my childhood as an actor and singer, and had performed on stage and screen many times, even after I became a journalist and was accustomed to asking personal questions of complete strangers. Then I had to confront my fears: I changed careers and became a university educator, requiring me to give up to 6 lectures every week during semesters to up to 200 students each. It took me 100 lectures before I became confident and (almost) completely comfortable!

    • I think confronting your fears is the only way that really works. I had to do it as well and I finally was able to get comfortable as well. It’s not easy but it is possible. And it’s a fear shared by many celebrities, including Barbra Streisand — it’s why she’s done so few concerts.

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