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Category: Reflection

Speaking confidently

Last month I got asked to speak to some University of Salford’s Business students about how to present well. Every year the University apparently holds a conference for their Business students to attend and hear form industry experts on a range of topics, all with the aim of building the students understanding of how to speak confidently to an audience.

Because of COVID-19 they couldn’t hold the conference as they normally did, nor could they have external speakers come in to talk to the students, as such they were really struggling to help the students build their own confidence in presenting; and I got asked whether I could run a session for them via Teams.

I speak a fair bit nowadays, generally on Product Management, Diversity and Inclusion, Career development, Agile Delivery or User centric design, so doing a talk on talking was a new one for me, and something I wasn’t quite sure how to approach, especially virtually; as such I reached out on Twitter to gather some thoughts on who people thought ‘presented well’ and why.

Interestingly, when gathering my thoughts for the talk, I had a number of people I know reach out and ask whether the session would be available to a wider audience; it turns out lots of people really struggle with their confidence when it comes to speaking publicly; and while I got share the video of the session, I can share my notes, so I thought it was worth turning into a blog for people to read!

But I think the fundamental points are:

  1. Know what your brand is. What are you good at? What do people know you for?
  2. Know who your audience is. What are you wanting them to take away from your talk? How can you best engage them?
  3. Find your own style. Some people need to do several run throughs before they do a presentation, some people need detailed notes, some people talk better to stats or words, some to images.
  4. Keep it simple.
  5. Be yourself.

Presenting or talking in public is one of the most common things that causes people imposter syndrome or anxiety. Most people assume that others are just ‘better at it’ than they are, but the truth is most people find this hard.

I spent years avoiding speaking in public myself as I thought everyone had better things to say than me, and that there was no way I could present without messing up; but I realised the issue was that I was trying to make myself look and talk like everyone else, and because it didn’t feel authentically me, I had no confidence in myself, and my audience struggled to connect with me.

Yes, snazzy images and stats will help a presentation go well; but if you can believe in yourself, even a little, others will find it easier to believe in you.

Taking time to breathe

While I’m not one to complain about being busy; and given the effect the current pandemic has had on the economy I’m absolutely not going to complain about being busy and having a job.

However, after 6 months of working from home full time, it was pointed out to me politely last week by my other half; how much more work I have been doing recently (I haven’t had time to blog recently!) and that perhaps I needed to take a break.

Doing late nights and the occasional weekend of work is not new for me, that very much goes with the job once you reach senior leadership levels. But over the last few months I’ve been doing that far more often.

My normal way to relax and switch off, LARPing (google it) hasn’t existed this year because of COVID, my family holiday in May was cancelled, and with my partner getting made unexpectedly redundant in June because of the Pandemic, taking time off I didn’t need felt frivolous. So I haven’t taken any time off from work for months.

I haven’t minded, because work takes my mind off the current world events somewhat, and it’s been good to have something to focus on. But with it now being the summer holidays; the fact I’ve not been able to take even a few hours off to go to the beach or a museum (which are still closed because of local lockdowns!) with my family has really hit me; and made me feel somewhat of a failure on the parenting front, and personally just very stressed and like I was trying to do everything.

So, this weekend my partner dragged me out camping, just to get me out of the house and away from my laptop for a few hours; and I honestly hadn’t realised how much I needed to not be looking at a screen for a few hours.

The spot we went to had barely any signal; we deliberately had no way to charge our various devices; and there was nothing around us but the views.

A tent overlooking the skyline.

It was bliss.

So, while I normally blog about work; I thought I might not be the only one who could do with a reminder right now that it’s important to take a breath sometimes.

It’s ok to need a break. Yes your work is important, but it doesn’t all sit solely with you; and you need to be able to share that burden and look after yourself too.

So please, even for a few minutes, move away from the computer, and take a deep breath. There is a world out there away from your screen. Make time to go find it.

Sunset over the hills