dispatches from ad school: standing up to public speaking fears

Lina standupi have been a classically trained pianist since I was 6. as a result, i participated in several recitals, from the auditorium of my elementary school to the stage at Carnegie Hall. those butterflies that everyone speaks of before they do anything of remote value in front of an audience? i never experienced them at the time. i heard of them from my mother, who subsequently grew them for me. growing up, i was a performer. i was always doing something in front large groups of people. i don’t remember thinking twice about it, i simply did it without protest.

i was the same much throughout high school and college. i was always the first to volunteer to speak. i loved the attention. and then somewhere between the end of college and the beginning of ad school, it felt as if someone turned off the “performing” switch. i no longer wanted the spotlight. i felt self-conscious. i found it difficult to articulate my ideas to large groups of people who were watching as my mouth vomited words and i inwardly chanted “do not faint right now, do not faint right now, do not faint right now.”

i knew that with advertising came presenting — i just wasn’t prepared for this much presenting. at Miami Ad School you have to present roughly three times a week. these presentations get more intense with each quarter and often longer. on occasion you will have to present at agencies in front of several creative directors. it’s nerve-wracking, to say the least. at first i had a hard time coping with this aspect of advertising, but as the activity grew more repetitive, it became increasingly easier to get up there. this is especially true if you feel passionate about what you’re presenting, so be passionate. allow yourself to get lost in the moment, articulate your ideas the way you would to your friends,  make your presence known. don’t worry: half the time, people will be too busy g-chatting to even listen, so do it for yourself. push past the uncomfortable. let fear be your motivator. if i can do it so can you, i promise.

a week ago, i performed stand up in front of 50+ people at MAS. every copywriter has to take the stand up comedy class, and in those 10 weeks you learn to leave your inhibitions at the door and perform to your best ability. for me, it was a weekly challenge but as i got up there in front of my peers and held the microphone below my mouth, i forgot all about my fears. it felt like i was playing the piano, except instead of hitting a bunch of different keys, i echoed words spoken directly from my heart.

for me, stand-up comedy was one of the most difficult things i have ever done in my life. a week later, i still can’t believe that i did it. after i was done with my 7-minute bit, which was performed in front of my peers, their friends, and a dozen creative directors, i felt more alive than i ever had in my life. it felt like the ending of a great date; there was this indescribable yearning for more.

although i’m not sure if i’ll ever do stand up again, i can say that my fear of public speaking has now taken a backseat, and those butterflies that i didn’t have when I was 9, well — they’re around now, but they’re the best kind of butterflies anyone can have.

lina

by elina rudkovsky

about the author: When Elina isn’t writing for or about advertising, she is with her therapist talking about it. Check her out at ElinaRudkovsky.com

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