On Public Speaking 🎀 #1

I remember the first time at school I was asked to give a presentation in front of my Chemistry class about electrons. I was terrified. Thankfully for this one, I wasn’t alone; I was with a friend, and we did it together. I remember mainly attempting to disappear into the background by hiding behind her.

The experience still haunts me today. And despite being a part of school plays and the theatre company, I always felt like I was about to collapse at any moment, I couldn’t get the words out, my face was burning red, and I lost control of all the muscles in my body (including the ones that help me breathe, oops πŸ˜‚)

So when I was invited to give a “last-minute” (as in not years in advanced) talk, my initial reaction was to turn it down, run far, far away from the opportunity and return to the safety of my comfort zone…

...But hey, that’s no fun! πŸ˜‰

I gave myself the challenge and accepted.

I spent the next few days obsessing over how my slides look, what I was going to say and talking to myself in the mirror (my sister walked past a few times, like “are you ok?” πŸ˜†) When I first started planning the talk, I was going to create cards with things I had to say. After watching a few talks on YouTube and thinking back to my favourite speakers from the conferences I went to in the last few months, I decided to discard the note cards.

Me trying to get the pointer to work πŸ˜‚

I talk about building communities in Sheffield with people I meet all the time. I love what I do with Code First: Girls and recently, hackathons that I can – after lots of positive self-talk – do it without the cards and just use my presentation as cues.

This is the first time I’ve ever done a solo talk and one without a script in front of me (for me to hide behind.) It was one of the scariest, most uncomfortable thing I’ve had to do in a long time but I did it. It took a lot of courage – a lot of which I thought I didn’t have (especially after my downfall earlier in the week.)

But I did it. And yes, I am so proud of myself.

Although I have a lot of things I’d like to improve on, like how I want to speak slower and use hand gestures less, but I’m so glad I made that step up. I can’t wait to speak at my next speaker opportunity at the ScHARR conference! I’ll be talking about digital communications for maximum impact and engagement, specifically blogging and social media.

You can watch my full talk at ShRUG below:

Thanks again for the opportunity, Eve!

Thanks for the photo, Hamdah!

My tips (mostly reminders for my future self!)

  • πŸ’– Know and love your topic. But it’s OK if you’re not an “expert” on it! Your experience matters, just like everyone else’s, get your voice out there!
  • 🚰 Drink lots of water – it helped me calm down and keep my brain hydrated and focused on what I was talking about!
  • πŸ‘― Invite a supportive friend to come along and just pretend you’re talking to them. I invited Hamdah who supported me hours before and during. Whenever I felt nervous, I just looked at her and pretended we were just on one of our many coffee dates where I talk to her about CFG πŸ˜†
  • πŸ‘€ Try and make eye contact with everyone. I was terrified of doing this initially – but it made me feel much more confident and much more in control when people looked back. It felt great knowing that I had their full attention.
  • ☁ Don’t forget to breathe πŸ˜†
  • 🌟 Just get up and do it. It’s super hard, I know. But once you’re up there, the nerves fade away and the feeling that hits once you’ve done it is the best thing ever.  I mean you just got over a fear and earned another achievement. Hell yeah.

One of the most reassuring advice I heard about public speaking has to be from Jess Rose who said, “it’s okay because the audience will clap anyway because they sort of have to.” πŸ‘πŸΌ This was going through my mind during the talk and it helped boost my confidence massively! πŸš€

I’d love to hear from you! As always comments and feedback are much appreciated. Thank you to those who watched, listened and tweeted! πŸ€—

Have you ever delivered a talk before? Have you got any tips for others on public speaking?

11 responses to “On Public Speaking 🎀 #1”

  1. I had to do a lot of oral presentations in school, and I HATED IT. I even took a speech class as a requirement for my undergrad, and I HATED IT. Even today? I hate public speaking. I get so flustered, and the words literally start coming out wonky out of my mouth (I have speech impediment), and then comes the fact that sometimes the words won’t even come out because my brain can’t process them because I’m in utter panic mode!

    The “closest” thing I did was a recorded presentation for my postgraduate capstone presentation. I was supposed to just do it live, but I asked my advisor if I could record it because of the reasons I stated above. Thankfully, they accommodated me, and I was able to record my speech I’d typed out and then present it, which made it so much better for me. But doing that alone was a painful experience.

    It’s good you took the bite to the bullet and did it. It is a good skill to have, and I know practise makes it easier. It’s definitely important to know and be passionate about the topic you’re speaking about. If you don’t, it shows in your talk! Still, though, I’ll pass on public speaking and stick to writing πŸ™‚

  2. Congratulations on your first public speaking session! It’s very nerve-racking, but once you take the stage and follow along with your intended presentation, it becomes natural. I could hear your voice trembling here and there, but that’s normal. I would probably be more trembling if I was in your position than you would.

    In my family, I was pretty much the odd one out. I’m very much an introvert, the rest of my family are very outgoing and (sometimes) outspoken. Like Tara mentioned, I had to do a lot of oral presentations in school, right from middle school and all the way through college/university. My father’s past profession gave him many opportunities to do public speaking in many conferences (he worked for the county department of education as a fiscal/treasury director) and having him nagging about me and my take on public speaking didn’t really help me with overcoming my shyness. For my field study/major in college, I took up Mass Communications because I was interested in print and radio media production. Unfortunately, a small series of public speaking courses were required, plus I was more interested in BTS (behind the scenes) work, not in front of the mic or camera, but we were required to learn everything. At that time, web development courses did not exist yet, but when it did and it was a new addition to the Mass Communications field, I switched options to stay away from anything involving public speaking.

    But, fast forward today, and my current (part-time) job involves training new hires to our facility. I knew the job description, and because I was aiming to conquer all my past fears in my youth, I decided to take on this job and learn how to be a leader. With leadership, I knew that public speaking, or just speaking directly to a group of more than three people, will easily be natural. I also found that blogging (at least in my learning blog anyway haha) and writing down what you wanted to present to the masses helped a lot too. I imagined myself writing my presentation on a blog as I began teaching training classes to the new hires and everything went natural for me.

    I look forward to your future speeches lady!

  3. Congratulations on your first public speaking gig, Pauline! I’m so surprised to know that you’re not comfortable with public speaking, since I remember you telling me that you were once part of a theatre group. I guess it’s because with acting, you already have an exact script in mind and you’re portraying another character, as opposed to public speaking where you’re putting YOURSELF out there. At least, that’s what I think, since I’m more comfortable with acting than with public speaking too! XD Anyway, I watched the video and I swear, if I hadn’t read the intro of this blog post, I wouldn’t have known that you were nervous. You looked and sounded so confident speaking in front of all those people! πŸ™‚

    During my undergrad years, we had a public speaking class, and every student was required to take it before graduation. It helped somehow, but I still get stage fright because I’m always thinking about my accent (my accent is not the usual Filipino accent, so people laugh at me when they hear it) and the possible mispronunciations that might happen in the middle of the speech! XD In grad school though, I couldn’t avoid public speaking because the small class size meant that each student really had to speak every week. At first, it was really scary but I think that with practice, you will eventually get used to it! I admit that I’m not yet super good at it and sometimes I still get terrible stage fright, but I’ve gotten so much better.

    As for your points, I agree that talking about something you’re interested in makes everything so much easier! πŸ™‚ Listeners can tell if you’re truly passionate about your topic, and it will help them become interested too! And I like the point about just getting out there and doing it. This is so true. Once you’re up there, you’ll eventually get rid of the nerves because all you’re focused on is doing your best at that moment. When I need to perform or speak in front of people and I’m feeling super nervous, I kind of treat the nerves as adrenaline, so that when I go onstage I have lots of energy to do my thing and keep people engaged πŸ˜€

  4. Go you for stepping out of your comfort zone on this! I think you did well! It felt like you got more comfortable with it as it went along πŸ™‚

    I think that’s good that you practiced in the mirror. One of the best advice I got was to make sure you practice aloud because doing it in your head is not enough. I used to hate doing presentations when I was in school, but I’ve gotten accustomed to doing it at work, whether it was a tech talk to the devs or a product presentation for the company. That’s great that you were able to do it without note cards too! I feel like that makes it a bit more natural. Sometimes I put a sticky note on my laptop to make sure I remember certain talking points.

    I’m glad you’re going to do it again at a conference! The more you do it, the less scary it becomes!

  5. I think you should be SO proud of yourself for doing this! I’m a 1st grade teacher so I’m up in front of my kids talking all day long. But the SECOND you put me in front of a room of adults…. NO thank you! It’s a completely different feel and it’s very scary! You sound like you rocked it though! And I agree with making eye contact. Even though it sounds counterintuitive, it actually makes you feel more connected to the people you’re presenting to.
    You go girl!

    Susie | http://milehighdreamers.com

  6. Good job on your presentation! A lot of people are in the same boat about public speaking and it in no way defines whether you’re successful or not in whatever industry you work in. (Kind of going off topic but thought it’d be appropriate to toss that in here).

    I’m not really a fan of using note cards because having more flexibility is fun, haha. It’s great that you did the whole presentation without any hints or help. Even though it’s uncomfortable, at least you still conquered it. Hamdah is the real MVP for supporting you all the way!

    I’ve given a talk a couple of times and always like to keep them sweet enough that I don’t lose people’s attention. It’s totally okay to not be an expert in your field but don’t BS things. Hope you will have more opportunities to speak in the near future!

  7. Congrats on doing so well with your talk, Pauline! I’d be absolutely terrified!

    I had to do a couple of talks at uni for winning awards, and they went so badly. There was one where I had to present my essay (which basically referenced penis imagery in Victorian lit a lot) and it was a disaster. I could barely get my words out and sounded like an idiot. It was definitely better left on paper!

    I’m glad yours went really well. Those tips are fantastic too. I definitely wish I’d brought a friend to mine – that would’ve been so much better! And that Jess Rose quote is so true, and so reassuring!

  8. Congrats! It’s awesome that you took the step to do this and that it ended up being a good experience for you. Hopefully you’ll be doing more in the future and freaking out less about them πŸ™‚

    I don’t really do public speaking if I can help it, haha. I barely like to raise my hand in class. But I do think that talking about a topic you’re passionate about is so much easier. I’d like to do more public speaking in the near future, because it’d be nice to be able to share my passions with other people.

  9. I remember having such a huge smile on my fave when you were tweeting about this, Pauline! I’m really glad to see you not only gain more confidence but to inspire other women to enjoy something close and dear to your heart.

    I used to be so terrified of public speaking – I still am but it’s gotten better over the years. Loving the video; can’t wait for your next presentation!

    ☼ cabin twenty-four

  10. Way to go, Pauline! I think you did great, and that you seem like a natural in this department! I totally get why it may seem intimidating in the beginning, but when you’re out there, you forget about the nerves.

    You may not believe this, but my mother was our (my husband’s and mine) Public Speaking teacher in high school! I was OK with speaking in front of an audience (I was always asked to be a reader in mass, etc.), but I chickened out when I had my own mother as my teacher! Can you imagine? Hahaha! I did excel in her class (not because I’m her daughter, but because it’s my forte), and it was one of the craziest memories I have from high school.

    I think the pointers you gave your self are great, and that they are doable. I’m sure you’ll learn so much more as you continue to embark in similar engagements in the future. πŸ™‚

  11. That talk was AMAZING Pauline! Very proud of you. It doesn’t feel like you aren’t comfortable in talking publicly.
    When I was doing my under-grad course I hated publicly speaking. I used to shake in front of the crowd, forget what I was saying and get super nervous. I think I overcame that in my post-grad years and now I don’t really mind talking in front of a crowd.

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