Overcoming Shyness in Life and Business

Perhaps the best example of a person who has overcome shyness is the performing artist who stands naked on stage and presents his art before an audience of half-drunk New Yorkers in the wee hours of the morning.

Whatever the artistic merit of the performance might be, the scores of people who perform in such a manner on any given night in New York have overcome shyness. They have gained such confidence in their art that they can perform under any circumstances and bring it off. Gaining such confidence is not an easy thing to accomplish, and to many shy people such an event is unimaginable.

Yet, young actors might well be cast in a roll where the almost obligatory nude sequence will appear in the script. Often this is a one-on-one appearance, but might be nudity in mass on stage such as in the screen play Old Calcutta or in the movie Pearl Harbor where inductees are naked as they undergo their physicals. Nudity is a part of life, a part of modern performing art and body shyness is only one type of shyness that can impact a person in the modern business world.

Performance art, like it or not, is part of business. Sooner or later everyone will be called on to present their project, concept, invention or idea to others. Even the most solitary writer who produced his work in the safe bubble of his bedroom, now has to come forward and describe his creation to a skeptical audience in order to have his work turned from script to movie or from concept to the reality of an ad campaign on national TV. If you have a business turn-around-concept, you must be able to voice that concept with a degree of conviction, passion and clarity to a dispassionate audience.

Mechanical presentation methods like Power Point, product videos, hand-out materials and financial projections can be assembled. Such things may be distributed, but with the flood of slick media presentations and ads coming across nearly everyone’s desk, it is the personal approach that really sells. A shy person may be sufficiently disabled by their shyness to make such appearances almost impossible, whatever the merits of his project might be.

Types of Shyness

A. Body shyness is a major problem with some individuals. A person needs to ask himself, “Is my shyness related to how I think I look?” Grooming, clothing, posture and physical conditioning can help improve this image. It would be a strange company indeed, that a person would be required to present his project naked. In fact one method to overcome shyness is to imagine that the audience is naked, or a bunch of monkeys.

If body shyness is indeed a problem, this is something that can be worked on. Honor the audience by being dressed one step above what is their common dress. If presenting to a Silicon Valley crowd dressed in “business casual,” wear a sports coat and open shirt. If the board members are in suite and tie, do the same.

Issues involving body shape are more difficult, but learn to live with the unique person that is represented by the body that you inhabit. All of us are differently gifted and afflicted. This difference is part of what makes your message unique and valuable. It is part of your personal branding. Whatever body you have, make it an asset for your business identification and an aid to help people remember you as an individual.

B. Knowledge shyness is where the message about to be delivered is not well developed, and the person doing the presentation is so uncertain of the outcome that he is hesitant in delivery, draws ambiguous conclusions and generally muddles the message. Preparation is the key element of making such a presentation. Check and run through all of the slides and handouts. Have your presentation largely on a screen and use this as a prompter during your presentation. This will insure that you get all of your points, or your bosses’ points across, whether you believe them or not. Rehearsals will help. Taping or videoing them will reveal problem areas that need to be overcome. Be well prepared and things will go well.

C. Feelings of personal inadequacy can become obvious to an audience during a presentation. Often these arise from a fear of failure. “Who am I to be delivering this message to this audience?” is a typical mental question. This answer is briefly to “Know your stuff.” After all, you are the one who developed it, your know more about this topic than anyone else in the room so develop the confidence to present your material briefly and well.

D. Body functions such as waste elimination and sex are another source of shyness. It has been often said, “You know when the honeymoon is over when your spouse no longer bothers to close the door when they go to the bathroom.” While issues of filming sex scenes are significant to actors they are not a part of customary corporate cultures, although bathroom encounters could be. This may be the only time and place where a junior executive may have a chance to make his “elevator pitch” to a senior individual.

Using Videos to Overcome Shyness

One reason why events like debate and plays are part of Grammar and High School is that these events help students get accustomed to the concept of appearing on stage and presenting before their peers and families.

If you did not get this training during your early education or in College, filming yourself on video is a way that you can perfect your message. When you have a version of your presentation ready you can publish it on line and see if your get any feedback about it. No one has to see these videos but you. If you have a friend, trusted co-worker or life coach, you can get feedback from them. Audio tapes might also be used, but the videos allow you to dispassionately critique your own work before passing it along to others, or to the world in general. Such videos might be used as a part of your training for Toastmasters or a TED talk, and the ability to produce them should be in every modern businessperson’s toolbox.

A simple video camera can make an acceptable video or you can even record on your smart phone. You can prop the pone up on something or rig a cardboard holder to mount it on a tripod. I will do a video on how to make one. In the meantime, I have a video posted that covers the basics of making a YouTube video. You may view “Basic YouTube Videoing for Writers, Artists and Creative Content Producers” at: https://youtu.be/3UqY9pTUKII.

This video is among the over 725 that I have on line at the moment on outdoor and business-related topics. If I at 77 can do videos, you younger folks who have never known a non-screen society certainly can too.

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is a registered Professional Geologist in Georgia. He is also a member of several writers’ organizations including the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association (GOWA). He is the author of 18 books with his most recent title being “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” He has been a radio host and does public speaking on work and environmental topics with appearances in the U.S., Europe and China. He is an active blogger and the producer of over 725 YouTube videos on outdoor and business topics.