Step into the spotlight.

Here's the thing. Whether you're an entrepreneur, a corporate employee, a SAHM or a college student, the time will come—and it probably has already—when you need to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight to claim your power. This could take the form of not letting somebody else take the credit for your paper, your proposal, your cost-cutting idea. Or, it may require the actual stepping into the spotlight, on stage or at least in a large group meeting.

Does that thought terrify you? It did me, for too many years in fact. My fear of public speaking (and its accompanying fear of failure, fear of not being good enough) held me back in my business and in my life in general. It forced me to thrust others into the spotlight to say my words and present my ideas, instead of taking the responsibility and the challenge of doing it myself.

Oh, and then I wrote a book. One of the first things you learn when that dream of being a published author—of getting an agent, and a New York publisher and a book on bookshelves—actually comes true is that you must let others know about said book. Without promotion, books, like all products, don't get very far. And in the case of a book especially, even more so in today's publishing environment, the author and her brand are critical to selling any copies. Guess what that meant: No hiding. There isn't anyone else who can speak about my words, my book, for me. (I tried to figure out a way, trust me!)

So, I hired a voice and speech coach. He was amazing. We worked together for a year and still have tune-ups now and again, but truly, it's fun to speak to groups now. Folks with our company can't believe the change. And I can't either some days. If I can do it, you can, too. So let me give you a few tips I've learned as I've stepped into the spotlight. To grow your business and personal brand, I hope you'll decide to take the plunge and step into your own spotlight, too.

1. If speaking terrorizes you, get help. There are speech coaches, Toastmasters and all types of organizations to help you get the tips you need to grow into your comfort zone. You know your material. It's time to get credit for it.

2. Start small. I'm still grateful to the first Rotary group who gave me a chance to speak about my book. They were gracious, warm and not too big in mass.

3. Be prepared. Practice. Be prepared. Repeat. You'll feel better if you've rehearsed and can toss the notes and crutches.

4. And, a big point once you've agreed to take the microphone: Power Point is supposed to be visual, a supporting image of what you're speaking about. Duplicating your speech on slides is a sure-fire boredom creator. Promise. My goal is to get to where the real pros are and use no slides at all!

5. Remember, audiences, no matter how big or small, want you to succeed. They are there to hear your story, your message.

Have a wonderful weekend. And start envisioning yourself in the spotlight!

Never Fear Failure

Don't be intimidated in tough situations. People can detect fear in your words and actions, so take a deep breath and dismiss your fear of failure. Easier said than done? Remember, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Take a step back and think of this moment over the course of your lifetime. As your perspective widens, your situation will appear less significant in the grand scheme of things. It also helps to have a strong support system—a group that will cheer you on regardless of your successes and failures.

Anne Murray-Randolph was a fine arts grad selling Xerox machines for a living. When confronted with a corporate big-wig, Anne was asked to give her 45-minute presentation pitch on copiers in only 20 minutes. Realizing that it would be nearly impossible to cover all of her presentation material in half the amount of time, Anne took a deep breath and a different approach to her pitch. Embodying humor instead of a fear of failure, Anne flew through the presentation with wit and spunk. Anne knew as soon as her 20 minutes were up that this prospective corporate client wasn't interested in the copier. Instead, he told her that he was impressed with her and wondered if she would come work for him. Anne Murray-Randolph went on to work in prominent positions for American Can, General Foods, Frito-Lay, Hunt Wesson and RevoPower. She is currently the editor of Lives of Real Estate (LORE) magazine.

Have you ever overcome your fear of failure in a tough situation? We want to hear about it. Share your thoughts on the RYI blog!