If you’re afraid of speaking in public or just don’t know how to do it well, Nicole Garrett is here to help you.
Through a business she started last summer called PRESeNT she offers one-on-one and group coaching for anyone who needs to speak to an audience, whether that’s one person on the other side of a desk or a sea of unfamiliar faces in an auditorium.
Need to give the toast at your best friend’s engagement party? Pitch your novel? Present your company’s new tech product to several hundred people at an industry conference? She’s worked with individuals, businesses and nonprofits with a variety of needs.
“I do think everyone needs help with public speaking,” Garrett said.
She comes from a place of understanding. Though she’s a professional vocalist who’s comfortable onstage, she hasn’t forgotten how her knees quaked during her first audition in the Big Apple years ago.
Garrett has lived in Jackson Hole on and off since 2000 and full time since she married about six years ago.
Music buffs here may recall seeing her (she was Nicole Madison before marrying) in Off Square Theatre Company’s production of “Petticoat Rules,” in her own cabaret and in gigs around Jackson Hole with pianist Keith Phillips and other local musicians.
Garrett is still performing quite a bit and is also Off Square’s longtime education director, one of the duties of which is directing the annual youth musical.
Creating PRESeNt was something she felt called to do.
“I was reaching a point in my life where I was wanting something more,” she said. “I wanted to connect with people and help them and to find a way to serve more deeply.”
One of her clients has been Shawn Meisl, formerly of PAWS and now doing consulting work.
“After experiencing the power of Nicole through a group session, I hired her to coach me in managing large groups during meetings, conferences and events,” Meisl said.
“She cajoles and insists, and she exemplifies and presses to find the best, externally facing me. She helped me discover my strongest storylines, improve my posture, find a place for my waving hands, and look people directly in the eye.”
You can find PRESeNT at Present.llc and on Facebook and Instagram.
Garrett sat down to answer a few questions. The following has been edited lightly.
Q: Why did you start this business?
A: I was at a crossroads. Keith Phillips had passed away [in 2016]. He was my primary partner in music. I was living here and recently married, I was looking for a way to be here and work.
I attended a tech conference in New York. Listening to the speakers it became very apparent to me that there was a lack of preparation and experience by the people who were presenting. I was going there looking for inspiration, and I was inspired in a different way.
Just before that had happened, Mel Orchard invited me to a trial lawyers college in Dubois. He asked me to teach a workshop on using the voice. I presented to about 56 attorneys.
It was an incredibly rewarding experience to get them to use their voice from a singing perspective. That was really kind of my taste of presenting workshops.
Q: What were some of things you noticed presenters doing wrong at that tech conference?
A: Uh uh uhs. Just being glued in place. Not connecting with their audience. Rushing. Not having content created in a way that was really engaging.
Were they unprepared? Were they nervous? I couldn’t figure it out.
Q: Who are your business services for?
A: Anyone who has to give a presentation, whether it is an audience of one or a hundred thousand.
Q: Who’s been coming to you?
A: It is wide. Children’s book authors. Different people in the tech industry. I have worked with scientists. I have offered instruction to members of the Chamber of Commerce and a member of the tourism board. Young Professionals of the Tetons. I’ve worked with staff at The Wort Hotel. I’ve worked with people who are presenting awards at different events. I coached a wedding toast.
Q: What are people looking for?
A: It’s a variety of things. Some people simply want tools so they can do better. There are other people who truly have a fear of public speaking. The objective for me is to help people get over that fear. I give them simple applicable tools.
Q: Did you ever have that fear?
A:Yes! I definitely did. My first audition in New York.
Providing this service has enabled me to become even better at actually presenting.
Q: How did you get over your own fear of presenting in public?
A: By doing it and also by owning my voice.
I wrote a cabaret. Writing that story was huge in sharing that vulnerability with an audience. Also just getting really clear with who I was and what I wanted to say.
Q: Is there any difference between being an entertainer and being a business presenter?
A:It all depends on the venue — just like there’s a difference between singing in church and singing in a cabaret.
The best performers and the best presenters are coming from the most authentic place. I think the most honest place is what makes people stand out.
Q: Can you elaborate on that?
A:When it comes to presenting you have to be willing to own where you are in that moment. The preparation — working on the content and the craft — helps grow that confidence so that when you walk into the space you are able to present more honestly.
It’s scary. You’re being vulnerable in front of people. You’re being judged.
The key is getting to a place where you are owning your voice and can think, “OK, you may have a different opinion and you may judge me, but that’s OK.”
Q: Is public speaking a necessary skill?
A: Absolutely. We all have to be able to communicate with one another on a one-on-one basis or in a group. Technology has provided us a barrier to connecting on a personal level. We need to continue social interaction versus hiding behind a screen.
Q: What are some tips?
A: Seeing people.
Keeping in mind that where you stand on a stage makes a difference in how people perceive you.
Hand movements. You want to come from the most honest place. The best place to start is in a neutral position. Hands down by your side, knees relaxed.
Q:Are you just local?
A: I have clients in California. I have clients in New York and all over the country. I’ll go anywhere.
Q: So is this business a success so far?
A: Yes, knock on wood. I am so grateful. Honestly, I feel like the stars aligned. This came up and hit me at such a deep level. I felt this is what I’m being called to do. I’ve enjoyed working with every single client I have. It’s been an incredible experience.