From Introvert to Extrovert in 26 Easy YearsFrom Introvert to Extrovert in 26 Easy Years
If you know me, you know I don't have much of a problem speaking in front of a large group, or looking foolish in front of one. Yet, when I graduated high school, I wouldn't talk to new people, or walk up to a group I didn't know and engage them in conversation. And stand up in a room of folks and speak? No way! Shy Shanna, that was me. To the point where people assumed I didn't like them because I was afraid to talk to them. A bit of a problem for a small business owner.
I was lucky enough to have the choice to stay home with my kids for most of the time they were little. But once they got a little older and my husband bought our pharmacy, I was ready to go back to work part-time. And I thought working with my husband at the store would be fun! Turns out he is a very different person at work than at home. Much more serious. Unfortunately, I was kind of the same- joking around and expecting lots of attention. I must have quit 6 times in under 6 months lol! Maybe I wasn't ready to go back to work after all.
For most small business owners, the local Chamber of Commerce is a great networking opportunity. My father-in-law was one of the founding members of our local Chamber, but he never had time to go to meetings or get very involved. I will never forget the first time my friend Debbee asked me to go to a meeting with her. Again, I was a quiet wallflower, speaking only to those who approached me. Not sure what to say. During the meal/meeting, they announced that visitors were to stand up and introduce themselves. WHAT?! Speak in front of all 40 people in the room? Nope! I made Debbee introduce me.
I was "busy" the next few times she asked me to go. I'm terrible with names, small talk, all of it. But, eventually, I went back. And I said my own name this time! Way to go lol! And I kept going back. And I got to know some great people who live and work in my community. I felt like I was "working" by representing our business. And it felt great to be able to tell people I was associated with Wharf Pharmacy. Everyone knows and loves the Wharf, my father-in-law and my husband. I learned to network, to make small talk. I wasn't great at it, but I figured if I was going to get better, I would just have to make myself do it.
And then they asked me to be on the Board of Directors of the Lake St. Louis Chamber of Commerce! Wow! They liked me and trusted me enough to help run an organization that promotes small business and our community. Maybe I am okay at PR and small talk, and respected in my community. Two years later I was on the Executive Board, then I was Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Let me tell you something. If you want to get over a fear of public speaking, then standing in front of a room of 50+ people and running an hour-long meeting once a month will do it. A couple of years later, our Chamber merged with another Chamber (I was on that Board too, by then), and our membership grew. The year after the merger, I was Chairman of the Board of the Western St. Charles County Chamber of Commerce (fancy, right?!). I was leading monthly luncheons of 100 people, participating on fundraising committees, acting (I use the term loosely) in our annual Murder Mystery Dinner Theater, and networking several times a week.
Have I fallen up the steps to the podium? You bet! Introduced someone by the wrong name? Of course! Flubbed a ribbon cutting? Shown up to the right thing at the wrong time or vice-versa? Heck yeah! But have I met some of my best friends? Been supported beyond anything I could have imagined? Learned that talking isn't as scary as I once thought it was? Am I a different, and I like to think better, person? Abso-freakin'-lutely!
The point is, I'll speak in front of almost anyone now. Am I good at it? Like I said, I think I'm okay. But I am myself, and that seems to be good enough. And it only took me 26 years to get here.