I Don’t Know

Sep 24

Years ago I was working for an insurance marketing firm and we were hosting a conference in Nashville. During one of the sessions, the company president was talking about our new product launch and then said: “You know Annie is really the best person to speak about this; Annie come on up and tell everyone what it’s all about.” I was paralyzed. I never liked public speaking, never led a session year after year at these conferences, and here I was put on the spot to do so before 300-plus people. I knew the subject matter inside out, I helped create the product. But I was nervous, really nervous as I looked at everyone waiting for me to begin. I heard myself stutter, that New York accent coming on stronger, and then I saw two of my colleagues at the back of the room smiling at me. I got through it all and when I didn’t know something, I said so. I didn’t try to come up with an answer just to respond. I simply said, “I don’t know. I will find out for you.” Being straightforward and transparent about what I knew and didn’t know worked and the attendees made me feel at ease.

Fast forward and now I’m getting ready to participate in a webinar. I don’t have to look at anyone, just my computer screen. But I’m having that same feeling of “OMG, I have to speak and there will be all these people on the other side in cyberspace listening”. I know my subject matter and again if I don’t know something, I am reminded of that day long ago when “I don’t know” was okay to say.

2 comments

  1. Denise Betts /

    Your post reminds me of that thing they call the Cinderella complex — the peculiar tendency for women, much more so than men, to worry about what they don’t know, that feeling that we’re pretending to be someone who has all this information and we’ll be found out at any moment (and sent back to tend the hearth, I suppose)…I take heart and am reassured by your admission, because you’ve always seemed so fearless, capable, and knowledgeable about everything, but even you admit you don’t have absolutely everything figured out! I’m having several of those “I don’t know” moments myself right now, as I’m likely going to move into a new job that will be much more demanding than my current one. “I don’t know” may be my theme song for awhile, and that makes me nervous. However, I have to keep in mind that people like you, my trusted and treasured friends — my “colleagues smiling at me in the back of the room,” so to speak — are always there in spirit to cheer me on.

  2. Ah, the power of “I don’t know”… I’m right there with you. I always append it (for full effect) with, “But what a great question!” (Yep, if you can’t answer ‘em, brown-nose ‘em, that’s what I say.)

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