Julie Demsey

Vice President

Location: San Francisco, CA

"... I had what was necessary to be successful in my new role, but didn’t know if this new position would put me in a spotlight that would expose the little secret I had been hiding."

I am a generally strong and confident person and have been very fortunate to have a solid career with a continued growth trajectory. When I made the leap to a new company and moved up the ranks to a Vice President role I was extremely excited. I knew that overall, I had what was necessary to be successful in my new role, but didn’t know if this new position would put me in a spotlight that would expose the little secret I had been hiding. Even without knowing, I leapt forward with vigor.

Once I joined the company I quickly learned there were weekly company meetings and that it wouldn’t be long before I would be asked to get up and speak to the group. I knew that when that happened, everyone in the company would hear that my voice shakes when I speak in front of a room full of people and my secret would be exposed. And I would likely lose their respect. Not a happy or career enhancing prospect.

If I was going to be successful in my new role, and seen as a strong leader, it was going to be necessary to present to the company at a weekly meeting. So I did. And of course my voice shook, and I was embarrassed, and worried about the impact that would have on my position in the company.

When it came time to present again a few weeks later, my boss kindly suggested I might like to have someone on my team do the presenting; clearly he had noticed my shortcoming.  I explained to him that I was aware that my voice shook when I spoke and that wasn’t winning me any respect, but I needed to work through this. So I got up and spoke on a few more occasions hoping practice would alleviate the shaky voice, but it didn’t.

I am a smart woman and well aware that a shaky public speaking voice was not going to advance my career, yet I couldn’t make the shaking stop. I clearly couldn’t fix this on my own, so I reached out for help. I took an Improv class and a public speaking class and worked with a business coach who then suggested I work with a therapist trained in a method called EMDR.

After a few months of hard work, I was able to rid myself of the shaky voice and greatly improve my public speaking skills. And the payoff for the effort has been tremendous. Just the other day I delivered a presentation to a group of 35 people that was extremely well received. Fortunately, I can now do so with enthusiasm, grace and a voice that doesn’t shake. I am now seen as a strong and well respected leader in the company, partly because of my speaking skills rather than in spite of them.