For a moment I’m blinded by the bright lights on the stage making me the center of attention in the darkened room. I can’t view the sea of executives in the audience or anything for a moment. It’s just me and the stage with the projector behind me.
Slowly, everyone comes back into focus. I can see them all. Faces I know, some that I don’t. They’re all waiting for me. Staring. I swear I’m starting to sweat in places I didn’t think I could. The pressure is immense.
Get on with it, girl! I can do this.
I swallow, and then take a deep breath. The lights are shining on me, waiting. My voice is caught in my throat, suffocated by nerves. But I take another deep breath and begin what I’ve rehearsed. It’s almost like white noise in my ears as I rattle off the background and current state of Armcorp’s hold on the market. I know these lines by heart.
I turn to the projected slides and click the small button to move forward. Everyone’s watching. My blood heats and my heart races, but I know this. I quickly hit through all my notes and bullet points with an ease in my voice that doesn’t reflect my nerves, and the more I talk, the more my confidence grows. This is how it is every time. I can barely handle the pressure, and it’s huge, but I’m damn good at pushing through and maintaining the professional presentation that’s expected.
“So as you can see, the company’s market share is growing by seventeen percent and it’s on an upward trend,” I say, turning around to face the room of corporate executives. They’re all watching and judging me. And they should be; this is business, after all. “By reaching out to the other markets depicted in table five of this slide we anticipate a growth-” I pause as my eyes lock with the handsome stranger from the bar last night, my ability to speak momentarily stolen. The lines I’ve rehearsed seem to vanish and not a word can pass the lump in my throat.
He’s sitting in the back of the room, watching me with an intense gaze that makes me feel like I’m sitting in a 120 degree sauna.
Jesus. Focus, Charlie!
I clear my throat and open my mouth to continue. But nothing comes out. My mind’s blank. I stand there for several moments, my heart pounding. I need to get myself together. The corner of Mr. CEO’s lips rise in an asymmetric grin as he stares at me. He’s affecting me, and he knows it. Suddenly, I’m pissed. My nerves shift and anger replaces them. Nothing’s going to stop me from acing this and proving to everyone that I’m damn good at what I do and that I’m worth it.
I tear my eyes away from him, trying to unscramble my thoughts. A few attendees shift in their seats. They’re probably thinking I’ve suddenly gone brain-dead.
I turn my back on the room and face the drawing board, pointing with the tiny light in the clicker at the projection screen. Even with my body breaking out into a cold sweat, I push forward, quickly thinking on my toes until I’m able to remember my presentation. “And so what we have here…” As I point my wand at the graph, my hands start to tremble.
“Is room for exponential growth,” I continue on smoothly with my presentation as if nothing happened, even though it feels like my heart is climbing up my throat. I get through the next few minutes, presenting data clearly and easily. By the time I’m done, I’m covered with a sheen of sweat. But I’m sure I’ve done a competent job.
“And we will grow our profit margin by nearly ninety percent,” I say, turning to face the room in conclusion. I smile brightly and signal to the announcer that I’m done. Looking at the large clock on the far back wall, I see I’ve hit the fifteen minute mark right on the dot. Perfect. “Thank you for having me.” The room bursts into a scattering of light applause. I beam with relief although I’m still hot as hell with anxiety. Both from the presentation and from him.