Okay, so I’m keeping this one short because I’ve got a lot going on. I’m working on projects with TFQ clients, practising for my first academic presentation since I completed my MA, and taking time to read as much as possible before things get busy.
This week I want to share a little bit about how I prepare for public speaking events. Since becoming a founder, I’ve talked on various academic and non-academic platforms; it’s one of those things I love doing because of two reasons.
Reason one: I get to refine my skills as a public speaker.
Speaking in front of people (whether it’s just one or one hundred) is always nerve-wracking. Knees weak, arms spaghetti and all. But since I love public speaking, I often wonder why I get so stressed, and once I begin (after having practiced a lot), I feel more confident. I started looking into this phenomenon, and it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t alone.
Stress is common. And it’s complex.
Our bodies and minds freak out about major events, like speaking in public, not to hamper our progress but rather to keep us alert. According to Professor Alia Crum, stress has an evolutionary purpose. In potentially dangerous situations, like hunting a few thousand years ago, our brains and bodies had to be capable of quick, decisive action against threats. Speaking in front of strangers is a modern threat. And it can be overcome by understanding the physical and mental expressions of stress. Professor Crum says that it’s possible to harness stress and channel it into the activity we’re nervous about.
For example, it’s difficult to stay seated when nervous. If you’re on a stage in front of distinguished people and feeling anxious, consider how to channel that energy. Your body might feel the need to move because of the perceived danger. In such cases, pacing measuredly while talking, using your hands to gesture, or even playing with a fidget toy under the table can help channel the nervous energy.
How we react to stressful situations determines how well we fare in them. Personally, many occasions have called for immediately running out the door and never coming back on stage (or the Zoom meeting). In those situations, be they guest seminars or job interviews, I decided to tell everyone I was nervous. Straight up.
It might not be the most professional thing to do because the ultimate objective of speaking to the public is to convince them and instil confidence in your message. But it was honest and offered the most relief at that moment. Once I acknowledged this publicly, the confidence and convincing quickly followed. By the end of those interactions, I was bringing the right kind of attention to my work and the agency, which brings me to:
Reason two: I get to improve TFQ’s reach and relevance as a multidisciplinary platform.
As the founder of an upcoming communications agency, I’m finding my feet as a leader and solopreneur. The agency has worked with doctors, educators, marketers, and scientists. While creating a niche for healthcare professionals and public health educators is a strength, there are exciting ways to improve and inspire better communication in other fields. I want this agency to be wherever there’s communication.
By repeatedly harnessing the power of stress, I practice and pave my way to building a communication agency that supports various clients internationally.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. I love that this has become an excuse-free habit — I’m even doing this on public holidays! If you feel it ended abruptly, I hope you return next week. I’m about to use these strategies in my presentation. And given that my symposium presentation is next Monday, I’ll publish my upcoming post next Wednesday. I can’t wait to tell you all about the symposium!