In today’s time, it not uncommon to get lost in our smartphones and tablets, choosing the easy way out to email our clients, partners or even co-workers rather than picking up the phone and dialing out. I get it because I’m guilty. Or at least I used to be. I remember keenly interning for a company that accepted me in my last year of college to help with some backend cleanup of their system and assist with basic social media. Fast forward 2 months and I was offered a full time position as an Account Manager. We were a young group so it was no surprise most of us were fresh into the job force, still learning how to be professional, organized and efficient at our jobs. I was switched around in positions during my tenure at the company but I specifically remember being petrified every time my calendar reminder popped up on my Apple lap top screen reminding me of my call with a client or vendor in 15 minutes. What in the world was I supposed to talk about? What if I didn’t know the answer to their questions? All of these terrifying “what ifs” would run through my head each and every time I had a conference call. This phobia stayed with me from that job to my next job where it was even scarier because I was so unfamiliar with the industry. Cyber security. I remember it like yesterday. So many cyber attacks and so little time to demo our product to wiggle our way into helping companies battle hackers. I came in knowing nothing, no job position, just a boss that believed I had what it took to do something useful in the company. I remember applying for the job on Craigslist and thinking nothing of it. When I received the call to come for an interview at a Diner nonetheless, I thought it was a scary scam. I had my boyfriend at the time, now husband, follow me to the interview; that’s how nervous I was. It ended up being legit and I had my next interview with a group of executives, way out of my league, asking me questions about cyber security I hadn’t the slightest idea about. I still got the job. I sat at the front desk and being my usual self, I was intrigued by how intricate a mind had to be to build a product being used by billion dollar companies and government officials. How could a normal human think of such technology? I was bored with the front desk in about …3 days? I decided I was going to soak in any information I could so I could move on up. I started helping the SOC (secure operations center) place and manage orders for enormous clients around the globe. I worked under some who left willingly and unwillingly. It was a wild experience to say the least. One day, the president of the company asked me to put a PowerPoint together for a partner training on the product. We needed to expand more rapidly into other verticals and partner networks could be the key. I put together a PowerPoint for the large training that would happen the next day. 5pm rolls around and I get a call from the president, “great PowerPoint – I won’t be in tomorrow so you’ll do the demo.” My first thought…WHAT? With my pre-existing phone phobia, how could I even think of doing a face to face training? I hadn’t done a presentation since my 30 page business plan in entrepreneurship class 2 years prior. Not to mention, I really wasn’t familiar with the industry still. He insisted I do it even though I tried to back out. I rehearsed that night aloud to myself about 3 times and then reminded myself…JoAnna, you know this stuff. If you don’t, improvise. Yeah, easier said then done. I get to the meeting the next day dressed in my suit to find the CEO with a video camera and tripod – he wanted to video the training! All of the employees also joined the oval conference table. Now, I was sweating. This can’t be real. I paced around while all of the partners took their seats with the agendas and PowerPoint I had printed for them. The room was crowded…really crowded. I started. I definitely stumbled a few times but i reiterated that it was informal and everyone should feel free to jump in at any time. It made it more interactive, less nerve wracking. I made it through my first presentation. It wasn’t in front of a 5000 person crowded but 30 people was large enough to start. I watched myself back on tape and it actually wasn’t that bad – better than I expected. I needed to see the glass half full instead of half empty. I doubted myself because I never felt comfortable besides when I hid behind my emails. I knew I could articulate well in an email but it takes much more to actually talk to someone or a group face to face. Fast forward to my next job and I was faced with a marketing and sales position, constantly talking at ridiculously early or late hours to international customers on the other side of the globe. I was pushed out of my comfort zone again and although when you’re in the situation you don’t necessarily realize the benefits, I look back and perceive that portion of my career crucial in helping me feel comfortable with clients. And now…in my most current position – I will admit, there are still times when I feel a bit uneasy about a presentation or call but I remind myself that there’s a solution to all problems and if the question can’t be answered then, it can be answered later. I’m not the type of person to over prepare for tests or meetings. If I don’t know it, I most likely won’t know it in an hour or a day or two days when I have a call or presentation. Clients and vendors and coworkers are human too – we must not forget that. We strive to be the best but everyone makes mistakes – people accept them as long as you don’t make the same mistake over and over again. In all of this, I feel as though I have come a long way from my call and presentation phobia. I remind myself to just be me, be real. Don’t lie, don’t circle around the truth. I think this has helped me to form better relationships along the way. If I think something will or won’t work for a campaign, I’ll tell you. That’s my duty – take it or leave it but at least I was able to communicate it. I now feel as though I don’t have to hide behind my emails to communicate. I willingly pick up the phone regardless of whether it’s a small question. It’s good to hear voices – it’s good to have verbal conversations where the tone of you and the person on the other end can be determined more effectively than in email. Yes, I still do email constantly but when I look back on how scared I was to have a mere phone conference 4.5 years ago, I just have to giggle at myself. I’ve come a long way and for that I feel proud.
What do you think is the best way to communicate? Phone or email?