It is said that people fear speaking in public more than they fear dying. That’s what everyone told me as I prepared to deliver my first talk ever! And, having spent my whole life managing to avoid both of the above, I can believe it.
But recently I spoke at the IATEFL 2015 conference, in Manchester, with my co-author and friend, Viv Lambert. We were there with Macmillan Education, speaking about storytelling as a way to explore critical thinking with children (the main feature of our course, Story Central). Viv has much more experience in speaking and had just returned from a whirlwind tour of the Middle East, giving talks and workshops. But she still gets nervous, and referred to IATEFL as the ‘biggie’ (not helping, Viv!)
As a bit of an introvert the prospect of this talk terrified me, and the only way to deal with it was to do everything I could possibly imagine to prepare for it. We wrote and rewrote, designed and redesigned – determined not to subject our audience to death by Powerpoint. We rehearsed together via Skype. I read a lot and asked people for advice (thank you Mark Trezona, of BridgeBuilders, for sharing fantastic tips and a wealth of experience with me). I walked, recited, meditated and even ironed some clothes (that’s serious!) By the time we arrived at the conference, in theory, I knew what I had to do and what I needed to say. What I didn’t know, however, was whether my body would disown my brain just when they really needed to cooperate with each other. Thankfully it didn’t.
OK I admit it, it actually felt quite exciting as it all came together on the day, and Viv and I had a lot of fun doing this as a team. The nerves I assumed would debilitate me manifested as a sort of heightened alertness. I was surprisingly calm, I didn’t lose the ability to speak or move, and neither of us threw up or died. Result!