Why Stella won’t shut-up

Stella is one of our early Partner Members and the first to write a guest blog  for The Rainmakers Club about her first public speaking steps. We welcome her input titled – 4-Sights & Zones…

Throughout our lives, opportunities present themselves to us every day. Good or bad, welcome or not, they are opportunities all the same. For many, an example of an unwelcome opportunity comes in the form of any kind of public speaking. This was very much the case for me as far back as my school days where I was bullied. This led to me becoming reserved and something of a wallflower and meant that I never looked to be the centre of attention at all. Naturally, as I grew up it affected my general confidence and I liked to stay in my comfort zone as much as possible.

During the course of my adult years, I found my confidence levels came and went. In August 2016 my confidence was at an all-time low for a variety of reasons. I had lost a sense of who I was and life seemed not worth living. I joined the business networking organisation, 4N. I embraced it fully and committed to being part of a team early on, networking two and three times a week. I heard about “4sighting” and learned this meant giving a talk in front of the members who attended the meeting. The topic could be about a personal experience, sharing a skill, life lessons… pretty much anything as long as it was not direct selling. I decided that if I was going to change my life and make things happen, then I needed to try new things and get out of my comfort zone. I just knew that this was going to help me to change my life for the better if I could somehow manage to do it.

I agonised over the subject and ultimately changed my mind on topic after a few months. The positive impact that 4N was having on my life soon saw me settling on a title: “Networking Through a Black Hole and Out the Other Side”. The subject was my personal journey through life’s ups and downs and how 4N had helped me to change my life for the better and find myself.

After a few failed attempts, I booked myself in to speak on 26 January 2017 at the Kings Lynn 4N meeting. I also set myself a personal goal of completing at least seven 4sights before the end of 2017. Then the agony began.

I wrote several pages of A4, practiced in front of a friend, cut it down to four cue cards and then practiced again in front of another friend before deciding it was ok to try out for real. I introduced a prop into my talk – a picture from a key part of my life. This gave me something to focus on and broke up a potential monologue (at least in my head that is how it sounded).

In the two weeks before my 4sight slot came round, I was quaking and panic attacks were not far from the surface. It was around then that I met Lusana Charles, The Brain Detox Specialist. I had several sessions with Lusana and focused my brain on how great I was going to be and how I was going to do a good talk.

Before I knew it, the day had arrived. I had a very tame audience of nine, I knew every single person there and they were all rooting for me. I could not have had it easier. Lusana even personally came along to the meeting, encouraging me all the while. Despite this I was still quaking. I remember a few visits to the loo and focussing on my breathing a lot (thanks Lusana!) The meeting progressed through the usual breakfast and 40 seconds round and finally it was my moment.

I vividly remember standing there with an encouraging audience and feeling very awkward and uncomfortable but somehow I began my story. Initially it was stilted and I was focused on my cue cards but suddenly I felt myself “click in” to my story, my memories and experiences were being shared with my audience. There was silence, then laughs, smiles, applause and I felt a big sense of relief when it was over.

I was then booked in to speak on 7 February 2017 at the brand new 4N Fakenham group and that day came round all too quickly. Again there were lots of nerves and feelings of panic. I was shaking, drawing breath and back and forth to the loo but this time, it was somehow easier than the first. I recall the audience was around 24 this time. Some I knew but there were many I had not seen before among them. Our Regional Leader, Craig Davies was there so it was daunting.

When I finished my talk, I truly felt a sense of achievement when Maureen Prior (who had been at the Kings Lynn 4sight) announced to the room that I had come a long way from when she had first met me in August 2016. Only those who had been there at Kings Lynn could appreciate what she meant. I was embarrassed but pleased all at the same time. In less than two weeks I had done two talks and the second was much better. My confidence was rising and I began committing to more 4sight dates and by April I had booked a 4sight tour of the Midlands for October.

On 18 May 2017, I was speaking at Wymondham – the very week it became the biggest 4N breakfast meeting in the UK. Then came Dereham and I breezed it. Hot on Dereham’s heels was Ely – a short-notice slot appeared and I had never been there before. Again, I breezed it in front of a large audience.

I was on a roll and by September I was 4sighting at Great Yarmouth. For the previous few 4sight slots, I had been contemplating losing my cue cards but had not been brave enough to actually leave them at home. On the morning in question, I left the meeting room at one point, leaving my cards out on the table and, Group Leader, Chris Batten decided to play a prank on me and quietly hid the cards. Strangely enough, I had a sixth sense he would do this for some uncanny reason and thought to myself “What would I do if he did take my cards?” The answer was: “No problem – you can do it.”

I returned to the room, awaited my introduction and ignored the fact that my cards were missing. I confidently took the floor at which point Chris offered my cards to me. But I declined them and carried on regardless to the bitter end. I was on a high. I had cracked this public speaking lark!

Then in early October I set off to the Midlands for my first ever speaking tour. All was great UNTIL I came to speak at Cannock Evening, my first date of a 3-date tour. It should have been a doddle – Great Yarmouth was great and NO cue cards only two weeks previously. My audience was not as large as Wymondham or Ely.

However, for some reason I felt like I was right back there at Kings Lynn on day one. I was jittery, ill at ease and it felt like an ordeal and I certainly was not letting go of my cue cards. No Sir! I badly needed my crutch! Somehow I got through it and I arrived at Solihull the next morning ready for my second speaking slot of the tour. Once more I felt ill at ease but it felt better than Cannock had done. I puzzled over these two experiences and reflected on the glories of Wymondham and Ely and my journey to date but came to no conclusions.

Then I moved on to attend Leamington Bloody Spa (yes that is what they call it in 4N) as a passporting member only at the stunningly beautiful Binswood Hall. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I met a number of 4N friends and other familiar faces at the meeting including Craig Petty, the Group Leader at Cannock Evening and asked him for his observations about my presentation. His comments were encouraging, constructive and insightful – “… tremendous… you had them… make it more of a rollercoaster.”  I filed these words away alongside the closing words of the LBS 4sighter that evening, Paula Cohen: “…GET IN THE ZONE…” That was the important lesson! I was out of my natural habitat, my usual comfort zone on this tour and I had omitted to remind myself of the techniques I learned from Lusana to “get in the zone”. From these two encounters I realised why my Cannock Evening 4sight felt uncomfortable – because of nerves I was rushing and perhaps reading off the cue card list too much. Thus the rollercoaster aspect was more of a flatline of disaster or doom and gloom. More importantly, I also realised that I should prepare myself by:

  1. not taking my new found confidence for granted.
  2. getting in the zone and focussing on my message ahead of speaking.

I returned to my home territory following my Midlands tour and my tenth 4sight was already on the horizon at Newmarket. My 4sight tour nerves had rattled me somewhat and I found Newmarket a little scary to say the least (not helped by being very tired at the early start) but I am glad I did it fairly soon after my tour as it kept the momentum going.

Having said all that, am I glad I came out of my comfort zone to tell my truth? Oh boy am I! My confidence is far higher than it has been for years and I intend to keep building on this. In fact I have three 4sights booked already for 2018 and a fourth date in the offing. There will be no shutting me up now!


Stella Gooch 

SMG Virtual PA
Email: stella@smgvirtualpa.co.uk   Tel: 07788 645157

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