I looked at the calendar and thought: ‘something important happened on that day’.
I couldn’t figure out what it was until I checked my work calendar. Exactly a year ago, I organised my first ever public speaking session at my company!
I didn’t plan it.
It wasn’t my idea.
A senior employee, who attended my series of a digital marketing-related training that I delivered at my company’s offices, approached me after the last session.
-Why don’t you teach us all how you do it?
-But.. I thought I just did! – I replied and smiled slightly worried.
-No, I mean teach us how to speak so comfortably in public!
I was surprised, flattered and a bit doubtful when I first heard it. But, at the same time, my brain immediately started imagining what I could do to in order to make it happen.
-I guess I could! – I replied.
The next day, in order not to chicken out from this idea, I created an event and invited the whole company to a 2-hour session that was due to take place in just over 2 weeks time.
I started preparing myself by writing all the possible things I could share.
But as I was doing it, the chimp in my head (that is the emotional part of my brain) realised the potential magnitude of this task and I got very anxious.
I was just about to attempt to persuade my work colleagues that speaking with confidence in front of an audience is possible and, if practised, can even become enjoyable!
And I, the person who was still nervous before each new speech, was to stand there and make it sound easy!
It wasn’t just about learning how to speak. To make an impact, this training had to be about learning how to express yourself freely, telling the world who you are, what’s your story and what you know!
Who was I to do such a thing?
Did I know enough about it myself?
Did I have the power to convince anyone to try?
“But what if they think that I am full of myself?”- my chimp was definitely not helping out with this task.
I knew I had to go back to working on myself. On my own confidence!
I went back to reading my books on this subject, I watched loads of videos on Youtube from Stanford and Harvard University professors, motivational speakers, through to doctors and spiritual leaders.
A week before the session I already had 25 people signed up for the training and then the adrenaline hit really hard…
I read more, researched more and wrote more of what I would like to say because that was taking me away from my anxious and unhelpful thoughts.
It got to the point that I even got myself a waterproof notepad and took notes of videos that I watched while taking a bath. Seriously, I still have it and highly recommend it! 🙂
I also knew that just reading a book, watching a video or attending a lecture wouldn’t get anyone to speak.
This training couldn’t be as simple as showing some slides and telling my story. It had to be done in a way that our scared brains would react in a courageous way!
We had to practice speaking!
11th March arrived.
I stood in front of all these people who gathered in a small room. My mouth was dry, my hands were shaking, my breath was shallow.
I told them I would share my story and my speaking tips but we were also going to practice speaking.
I could see the fear in their eyes. They didn’t expect it and they definitely didn’t look forward to it!
And then.. something beautiful happened.
I realised that all of these people decided to participate because they trusted that I could teach them something useful.
My mind decided to switch its attention from my thoughts to the thoughts of my audience.
My heart followed applying the same system to feelings.
Somehow all the right words came to my mouth and I said much more than I thought I would. Fo 2 hours we were all operating on the same wave length. We smiled, we laughed, we shared the same emotions, we practice speaking and… we all had a great time!
I cried that night from the overwhelming feeling of gratefulness for this moment in my life. I realised that by overcoming my own fear I gave something important to others.
Ever since that day, we have been meeting on regular basis to practice our skills by presenting 5-minute speeches where anyone has a chance to share their thoughts on any subject as long as its at least slightly related to work. The audience plays an important role in this too because after each speech everyone has to give the presenter some positive feedback.
Why only positive?
Because our brains are experts in finding negatives themselves and most of the time we know very well what we did wrong. However, it’s what we do right that is sometimes hard for ourselves to pinpoint.
If you hear from others what you do right, what made them listen, what is your strength, you can use that to master your further speeches.
It needed, however, to be done in a safe atmosphere which is not often easy to achieve at workplaces. But boy did we do it.. So far, I heard almost 20 stories during which we cried, laughed, felt intrigued, inspired and educated. We realised how much talent and knowledge lies within us and we felt even more driven to do more!
A few months later I delivered another training session on this subject and I can truly say that both the training and the practice sessions are changing my life constantly! I really believe that they help us built trust within the company, they make us all grow personally and professionally.
March is a very special month for me also for another reason. Four of those people who attended the training are going abroad this month to present for the first time in their life at a business conference related to our industry.
They go there to look their fear in the eyes and to show the world who they are. Because they told themselves THEY CAN!
And the rest will be history 🙂