I admit it. I’m a weirdsmobile. I am one of the few people I know that is more comfortable presenting to 200 people than having a one-on-one meeting. In over 25 years as a former broadcaster, hobby performing musician and AEC business development and marketing professional, I can tell you that the experience that most intimidated me – quavering voice, flop sweating, the works – was going back to my high school to talk to five students about careers.
I wasn’t always this way. I was a shy kid who got picked on a fair bit, making me wary of others, suspicious of my own worth, and committed to keeping my head down and keeping my own company. The thing that made the difference for me, and can for everyone, was understanding and developing a professional persona.
The dictionary defines “persona” as the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others”. In other words, I get to decide which parts of myself to show to others in which settings. Most people in business have developed a professional persona because we recognize that parts of us are office-appropriate, and parts are NSFW (not suitable for workplace). Entertainers use them as well, for example Beyonce’s alter ego, “Sasha Fierce”. In my view, the value of a persona is that I can send a version of me into a situation that is curated for that circumstance. It gives me a means to move past my insecurities about being liked and move forward into an otherwise intimidating situation.
If you are someone who struggles with presenting, a persona can be your ally. Remember, in an initial meeting, whether a project presentation or a performance, the person/people seeing you for a short period of time don’t get to know the real you. They get to see the persona you are presenting to them, and that’s something you can control.