Finding my Voice at Booth

When I started at Booth I knew that one of the skills I wanted to continue to cultivate was public speaking. I had always been in awe of the fluency with which great business and political leaders were able to speak in front of their respective audiences. While I wanted to strive towards that oratory ease, I still maintained a common case of stage nerves and fear of blanking in the middle of my speech.

I knew the more I practiced the better I would be, so I leveraged all of the different opportunities at Booth as ways to develop this muscle. Whether it be running for cohort president (where candidates are required to make a small speech in front of classmates) or signing up for Persuasion class, I was determined to find ways to get more practice reps in.

In short order, I found myself exhilarated to be in unchartered and exciting territory that challenged me. I pitched as part of a FinTech startup team at the New Venture Challenge competition, where each team’s pitches are followed by acute and thought-provoking interrogations from well-seasoned venture capital professionals. It resulted in an exceptional and unique chance to receive real-time feedback from industry experts on both content and presentation skills. And it stretched my teammates and me to respond quickly and thoughtfully to their insightful and probing questions.

I also knew I wanted to check off speaking at Booth Stories from my Booth bucket list, as well as participate in Rustandy Center’s Conversations in Confidence event for Navigating the Grey week. Both events required a different take towards sharing a more personal story about my background. I received nothing but encouragement from fellow classmates and felt grateful that they were willing to listen.

As a second year student I signed up for the LEAD Practicum, which provides a tailored leadership development curriculum—including working one-on-one with a career coach and participating in skill development modules. Throughout the Public Speaking module in Winter Quarter, fellow second years and I gave impromptu speeches that were video recorded so we could re-watch and analyze how to improve. While we were all a bit tentative at first, we received massive encouragement and support from our module leaders, cheered each other on as we practiced speeches, and offered one another constructive feedback.

At the end of last quarter, my team had to pitch a business idea as part of our final project for New Venture Strategy class. We rehearsed our pitch many times and the final delivery went well. After we had finished, I realized that I presented without those creeping stage nerves!

Could my public speaking skills be better still? Of course! There’s always room for improvement! But throughout these varied experiences, the stage butterflies grew fainter. Not only did I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to foster these skills, but I realized that I actually enjoyed it… and it could even be a little fun!

Charlotte is a current full-time student in the Class of 2018.

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