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Embracing the messy & continuing with Heather Jeffries

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Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week’s podcast. This week, I’m really excited to introduce you to Heather Jefferies. For those that are listening, who is Heather Jeffries?

Who am I? Good question. I am a presentation skills coach. I support creative entrepreneurs and small business owners to communicate with confidence so they can connect to their audience with empathy and authenticity, and really step up, show up and achieve their goals. 

I want to start off with how you came to do this type of work in the first place. What was that journey?

It was very squiggly and nonlinear. Not a very obvious journey. And to be honest, if you said to me 10 years ago, that I’d be doing this work, I would have questioned it, but in hindsight, it’s amazing, because I feel like everything has slotted into place. 

I trained as an actor and a director in New York City, I went to drama school there and the work that I was making in my theatre community was very physical. I’ve danced my whole life and found that I was really interested in exploring movement further.

I knew that I always wanted to move to London so thought, okay, I’ll study choreography, I’ll get my MFA in London, so I flew over. I studied choreography but of course, as we all know, the theatre journey isn’t as straightforward as graduating and walking into a nine to five, secure job. During this time, my father decided to sit me down when I was probably and said okay, so if you’re going to pursue this, you need to do something else. And you are really terrible at tidying up a table, you’re always dropping glasses, so you can’t be a waitress. I think you need to get a job in a shop.

So I took his advice and started working in retail. I was really fortunate that the company I worked for opened their first London store the same month that I relocated to the UK, so I had this sort of retail career happening in tandem with my creative career.

A friend and I had a Dance Theatre Company and we did Brighton Fringe Festival and other festivals in London which was great, but I woke up one morning and realised that I actually really enjoyed leading teams and developing others in my retail job (so coaching and training basically) but I felt stuck.

I loved helping younger managers find their feet and find their voice which is very much aligned to what I do now. But yeh, I woke up one morning, and was like, how is this my life? How am I doing this? It felt like I had somehow woken up in somebody else’s career path if that makes sense.

So, I felt very stuck, for lack of a better word. I think I lost track of the time. I kept accepting promotions because I still really enjoyed the work and something I realised only recently was that I also loved the stability and structure. I really loved having that structure and climbing the corporate ladder. Seeing what you’re aiming for. I found that incredibly motivating and satisfying. That realisation allowed me to forgive myself for feeling like I was in a career that I wasn’t meant to be in. 

I was really fortunate that around this period of stuckness, I had some friends and colleagues doing makers markets and selling on Etsy. They were saying, Oh, I really want to do Instagram stories but I don’t really feel comfortable or confident speaking on camera or talking to people who look at my products at the market. And I realised, I can help them. 

You know as an actor, that’s our job. I have tools and techniques that I could share with them. So I started to play around, and I did my first presentation skills workshop, specifically for creative entrepreneurs. I cannot tell you, it felt like I was bringing my whole self into the room that day, rather than just like a tiny part of me.

My work feels like it really integrates everything that I know, and I’m passionate about. And I feel so grateful that this is the work that I get to do.

In terms of your journey at the moment. How long has it been from the moment of helping the friends with their Instagram stories till now?

I haven’t actually done the math. I want to say a few years. I started to test the waters by doing a few workshops, offering one to one coaching and a couple of corporate workshops, but then became pregnant, so went on maternity leave.

That was a big deal for me because I had said in my head, I’m not going to leave just because I am pregnant. That’s not going to be my way out.

But I made peace with the fact that I wasn’t going to return to my job, even though I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do. So actually, this time last year, was when I hired a coach because coaching is something that I had experienced in my retail job and had also done a lot of reading on. I’m very interested in personal development and perspective, so I knew that I wanted to figure out where I wanted to be quite quickly. I was applying for full-time jobs, I knew I liked the structure, and the appeal of being in a corporate space. I tested the waters and knew that I really loved presentation skills, coaching, and that it wasn’t just me enjoying it, people were also benefiting from it as well.

So I worked with a coach and finally made the decision to do it, this was my moment, I’m was going to set up my own business. And then a few weeks later, the pandemic happened. So it was really funny timing. But I was so excited to have committed to a decision and I’m also quite stubborn. Even though I no longer had childcare, I wanted this new path to happen, and so made happen. I feel very fortunate to be able to reflect on the past year and feel like I’ve made great progress. I’ve worked with fantastic clients. I’ve had amazing conversations and collaborations with others, and I’m really, really enjoying it.

What does personal development looks like for you right now?

That is such a great question. I’m going to say one thing, which is connecting with others who are like-minded or have similar values, ethos – who champion and encourage and can inspire – I find that really inspirational. I think social media helped me connect with some wonderful people.

People I only know through Instagram but you know, just really helps to reinforce and spark meaning. Being curious also! Podcasts are another. I’m definitely somebody who needs a deadline to work towards – external accountability is important for me. That’s another thing. I know that about myself. I have quite a lengthy To-Do which always kickstarts my personal development in a way.

What are you learning at the moment?

So much. It’s funny, the first thing that comes to mind actually, is that I had an accountability buddy last year, and we were doing the wrap-up call and I said the thing I’m most proud of achieving is the fact that I am okay with not achieving everything. I cannot be and do everything that I want to do.

I’m somebody who likes to do things and love to do them properly. I’ve been a perfectionist for most of my life but that isn’t a word I would use to describe myself at the moment. But that’s okay. I’m working on prioritising and time blocking and just really being okay with the idea of ‘done is better than perfect’, and really owning that.

 What are the top three misconceptions that people have around presentation skills?

The first is that it is only for big moments, right? It’s just for when you have to stand up in front of an audience or a roomful of people. However, I firmly believe that the foundation is the breath, the body and the voice. That’s my approach.

I feel that it can be so powerful when you begin to take those skills and translate them away from those big moments where often it’s like high stakes or emotions are riding high. If you can translate that talent into the everyday, I feel like that can be really powerful.

How can people connect with you and stay connected with your journey?

I am HeatherJeffries_on Instagram, and Heather Jeffreyies on LinkedIn. My website is heatherjefferies.com. I tend to share tops on LinkedIn and Instagram as well as offer tutorials, and resources. I have a couple of free resources as well.

The most recent resource I am offering is all about camera confidence. It’s something that even though we’ve all spent almost a year zooming, If you still don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera, I can support and help people with that.

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