When we first interviewed Vanessa Tremonte, she was our teen spokesperson and had just won the Miss Arizona Jr. National Teenager pageant. Since then, she’s grown up, started a career and a family. Although she decided to move on from pageantry to focus on school, Vanessa tells us her exposure to and experience in pageants gave her the confidence and poise she needed to be her best self and overcome her fear of public speaking.

Vanessa TremontePageants taught Vanessa that poise and confidence are key in how you present yourself to others. “It’s all about progress versus perfection – even if you stumble (literally or in your speech!), you must pick yourself up and move forward. Learning to not be paralyzed by a situation or occurrence is a life skill that can be applied to speaking fluently and beyond. Check in with the situation, figure out what went great/what needs improvement, and move on.”

Beyond pageantry, Vanessa has continued to challenge herself daily when it comes to public speaking. As a management consultant, she is constantly speaking with clients, pitching ideas to her team, and guiding her direct reports on their career development. Influencing and persuading others through speech is a daily ask of her profession.

She never sought any formal treatment or therapy, but competing in pageants, joining her high school’s speech and debate team and finding other ways to put herself out there to practice her speech was her own form of personal therapy.

“Practice, practice, practice – it’s the only true way to become fluent! It’s all about progress versus perfection – I still have days that aren’t great when it comes to my speech, specifically when I’m under a lot of stress or pressure. On these days, I remind myself to take it slow and breathe! I do a lot of introspection to consider what I could improve the next time: Were there certain words/consonants I had trouble with? If possible, did I rehearse or practice what I was going to say ahead of time? Was there a way to reduce my stress level (e.g., deep breathing)?”

While there are still times when she gets nervous before having to speak in front of others, Vanessa has found that practicing before a presentation, pitch, or team meeting has helped her to be as comfortable as possible with the situation before going into it. If it’s not a situation that allows her to prepare ahead of time, she reminds herself to stay calm, breathe and speak slowly.

What’s one tip Vanessa would give others in her shoes? “Be kind to yourself! Being afraid to speak in public is a fear held by many people, not just those who stutter.”

Today, Vanessa Tremonte works as a Consultant Manager in Mesa, Arizona, with her husband and two young sons, Hudson and Connor.