IATEFL and fear of speaking

Viv and Mo at the Macmillan stand at IATEFL 2015

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!


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