(OK so I couldn’t stay away for too long…yes I’m back for a fleeting moment…but as a guest blogger this time!)
If someone had told me a few years ago that I would get up and speak at an international conference, to a crowded room, and be filmed doing it, my heart would have popped up into my chest and an awful fear of dread would have come over me instantly. The fear that I had associated with public speaking had overcome any possibility of me ever considering dong anything like that.
There was nothing rational about the fear though. I have always had the ability to stand up, speak, and communicate a point…but doing that at pre-starts or tool box talks, or management meetings somehow was completely different in my brain, compared to standing behind a lectern with a microphone, where I would instantly lose my ability for words to flow out of my mouth in any normal order.
It was my manager who told me that I just had to get over it, and that the only way of doing that, was to go out and get outside my comfort zone and do some public speaking. He is actually a great guy, and he gave me some good tips along the way. The most useful one of which, was to practise repeatedly…over and over…so much that you can do it with your eyes closed.
So, with that in mind, I submitted an abstract at the AIOH conference back in 2012. When it got accepted…and I realised that I actually had to speak at the Conference, I felt a small amount of joy, and a lot of fear! At the time though I just thought to myself, “get over it“, and I practised the paper for what felt like an eternity…but what may have been around 4 weeks. I’d love to say that I didn’t feel nervous while doing it, that I made no errors, or that it was easy…it was none of those things, but honestly, it wasn’t that bad! At the end of it, I felt a wave of relief rush over me, and I was glad I did it.
Since then, I’ve presented many more papers in different settings, so much so, that the nerves are going away and are mostly gone, largely due to my incessant need to practice over and over until I think I’ve nailed it. Flash forward to April last year, and I thought that it would be a good idea to push myself out of my comfort zone that I had created in my head and I put my hand up to present at an Ignite session at the BOHS Conference in the UK.
Ignite sessions are a little different. They are 5-minute presentations where the PPT slides auto-advance every 15 seconds i.e. you have no control over the slides….they turn themselves! Even better is that they are filmed and posted onto YouTube. Cue instant heart-attack.
Everything was going well while I was writing it, but when I started to practice, the enormity of the whole “auto-advance” thing was a tad terrifying. I mean, if you stuff up one slide…you can’t necessarily go back and say it again…you just have to pick it up and really, “get over it“.
I was so nervous in the morning of the Ignite session, but I was quickly calmed by the session chair Alex, and the other brave souls who were also scheduled to talk. Once the session kicked off, I watched in awe at the other Ignite presenters. They seemed cool, comfortable, and like they were having a great time. Watching them helped steady me for the whopping 5-minute talk I had ahead of me….and then it was time.
Maybe it was due to the friendly atmosphere at the BOHS Conference, maybe it was due to the fact that I felt silly wearing a Go-Pro on my head, or the fact that I had practiced this 5-min talk for what seemed like an eternity, but standing up there presenting at the Ignite session was honestly a lot of fun. Even better was the feeling once it was done! I felt a great sense of achievement (I didn’t stuff up too badly) and I have seemed to have overcome my irrational fear of doing what I do every day – talk. Just in front of more people. With a microphone. Easy! WHat a way of putting yourself out of your comfort zone…here is me and my attempt at an Ignite session…constructive criticism only please!
So why am I telling you all of this? Because I honestly thought that public speaking just came naturally to everyone. I thought that no-one else practices their talks, and I thought that I would never be one of those people. But by putting myself out there, I am slowly becoming one of those people. I’m no Oprah, and by watching my Ignite video, I can safely say that I could say, “…ummm” a little less! But if I had have shown that video to myself 3 years ago, I never would have believed it.
Sometimes we just need a little “push” for us to get over our fears. Luckily, the BOHS are hosting another Ignite session this year at IOHA2015 in London, and the call for abstracts is out now. The AIHA also has a call for applications out for their Ignite session at AIHce 2015 to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah. So you can’t use geography as an excuse 🙂
Maybe you just need a little “push” outside your own comfort zone for you to consider submitting an abstract. If you need some more inspiration, then you should watch the mother of all Ignite presentations delivered by #hygienegod Kim Merritt. How can you watch this and not want to do one?