Terrified of Public Speaking? You should do an Ignite Session!

Posted on Updated on



(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?

Happy viewing!



Guest bloggers #Ignite the crowd at #AIHce

Posted on

WilsonFletcher Best

Well what can we say, we lit the international fuse on the Ignite session at AIHce 2014. As three of five internationals we made the stage sizzle with our slides. As Danny and Sandy said in Grease, summer lovin’ happened so fast that as soon as we were up there it was all over again. After an adult lemonade to keep our heads focused we thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Ignite session. Following on from Kate Cole who lit the fuse in Nottingham UK at OH2014 with the long distance experience we knew we had to step it up!

We were all gob smacked at the talent on stage, first off we had Mr Roskelley who definitely needed his San Antonio ski pole to conquer Everest and what a experience he shared. Next up was Paul who gave us a great insight into aircraft maintenance with some great images, copy that Paul! Taking it old skool was the legend of Billy Bullock giving it some on OELs, FAB work Billy. The treat to come was Prof Scott with his great analogy of GHS amazing and the crowd certainly got a big San Antonio slap in the face as we were all stirred by his excellent energy and enthusiasm. Don Weekes brought us back down to the ground with a fantastic fantastic (F2) story of hygiene in pictures, definitely something to think about. No wiffleball for Dustin Rusch as he made it to stage with his injured foot, however he took the “UN” out of it using brilliant graphics.

Then our very own Brooke Best took to the stage as the first Australian rep, but she didn’t let it go to her head while she proclaimed she was H.O.T.T.!  The crowd loved her croc wrestling and multiple tattoos saying I love IH (thanks AIHA for the Tats). Holly Fletcher did not disappoint and really hit home what we do as a profession and how one person can really make a difference in your life. Theo Scheffers made good use of the stage to bring his call for hamonisation between OELs and DNELs, this discussion I am sure carried on right into the night most likely in Durty Nelly’s a key conference break out area. Alex Wilson emphasised the importance of Yorkshire but also his passion for science and grass roots education. Kids are an excitable sponge for learning and so are we, so lets soak this up and go and teach the next generation of hygienists. Mr and Mrs Klane brought the double act to the show and shared a personal story of hard work and working hard for their family and their marriage. Last but not least was the 3-peater himself the maestro Kim Merritt, no beer bongs were present on stage however Kim gave us a rush of blood to the head in igniting the passion for doing this style of presentation.

But for now, here is us on stage with our 5-minutes of fame:


Getting ready to ‘Ignite’ at the BOHS

Posted on Updated on

Ever heard of ‘Ignite‘? In the world of public speaking, an Ignite session holds the motto, “Enlighten us, but make it quick!

Presentations are meant to “ignite” the audience on a subject, whereby awareness, thought, and action are generated on the subjects presented.

They also follow a fairly strict format…a maximum of 5 minutes, with 20 slides that auto-advance every 15-seconds…yup AUTO advance…so you have to keep up with your slides and make sure you don’t stuff up and lose your place. Even better than that, the entire thing is recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

Why would anyone want to put themselves through this? That is what I am thinking now…as my very first Ignite session at the BOHS is up tomorrow…wish me luck!!