I’d done a round-the-world yacht race, where 100-foot waves crashed over the foredeck. I led and managed polar expeditions. I never felt fear in those moments. But when I started at Chartbeat in 2009, I was terrified of public speaking.
I imagined myself up onstage, getting nervous, my mind going blank, then my body starting to sweat and people being horrified by me. I was asked to speak at a conference in Las Vegas. I felt like I had to be the guardian of Chartbeat’s story, so I agreed to go. I decided not to lean on PowerPoint, which made me even more nervous.
I prepared like crazy. I flew to Vegas and spent the entire time pacing around my hotel room memorizing my 45-minute speech. I decided to wear jeans and a white shirt, to hide sweat.
Onstage, I tried to capture the audience’s imagination by explaining how everything it needed to know about the real-time Web, it could learn from a Japanese automotive engineer who died in 1984. I survived. I didn’t get a standing ovation, but the audience seemed interested. A few people even complimented me afterward.
The main thing that helped me overcome my anxiety was to speak onstage as often as possible. Over time, it’s gotten a lot easier. Now, I speak at conferences about once a month. I’ll improvise for the first few minutes and, if I get a laugh, I can relax. If you think about it, the audience wants you to succeed.