How do you feel about public speaking? Comms pro Advita Patel had her first public speaking event this week and has written for the All Things IC blog to share what she’s learnt from the process.

Advita has more than 12 years of experience in internal communications, employee engagement and change communications. She’s  passionate about helping people and organisations reach their potential. She was recently named a Future Leader on the Northern Power Women Future List and is the Vice Chair for CIPR Inside. You can find her on Twitter @advita_p

This weekend I’m looking forward to hosting the fourth #TheBigYak unconference with my fellow The IC Crowd co-founders. It’s a great opportunity to have your voice heard in the room as everyone can pitch an agenda idea. Are you coming? See The Big Yak website for full event info.

Advita has been working hard behind the scenes to support Jenni Field, Dana Leeson and I in preparing to welcome in-house practitioners this Saturday. Thank you Advita.

I’ll hand you over to her…

My take-aways from my first public speaking event

I was asked to step in at the last minute to speak at the Northern Power Women celebration event, as I was recently named as one of their Future Leaders.

Now, I’m not a shy person and I’m fairly confident when it comes speaking to a small group or in an informal setting – but put me on a stage with a microphone facing into an audience – the fear randomly overtakes me and for this reason for many years I’ve rejected requests to speak at conferences and events as I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

The funny thing is that as a comms professional I regularly give advice to others when they are about to go on stage by giving them mini pep talks, telling how to stand, reminding them to take deep breaths and reassuring them that all will be fine, but I never took this advice on board myself.

However, not so long ago I finished listening to Shonda Rhimes’ book called The Year of Yes.

The book encourages people to step out of their comfort zone and not allow fear to stop them moving forward or enjoying life. With those words ringing in my ears, I suddenly had an out-of-body experience and found myself saying ‘Yes of course I will!”

So now I’ve successfully spoken at my first ever public event, I thought it might be useful to share some tips that stopped me backing out or having a mild panic attack!

Reach out

One of the first things I did was message some of my wonderful friends to get some moral support! It’s really easy to talk yourself out of something especially if you’ve never done it before but getting this reassurance from people you admire and trust is invaluable.

It really gave me a confidence boost and helped me realise that I could do it.

Distract yourself

Rather than go into a full melt-down mode and start panicking I distracted myself for 10 minutes by listening to the soundtrack from the Greatest Showman – I know it’s really cheesy but the song ‘This is me’ is my power song and I think it’s really important that everyone has one – it makes such a difference.

Read through the brief

Once you’re in a place of calm and serenity, read through the brief that’s been sent through.

This is vital as it’ll give you an idea of what’s expected of you. I made a few mental notes of the topics I wanted to cover but I didn’t over think it as my brief was to keep it fairly informal and chatty and I didn’t want to be over-rehearsed

Get to the venue early

I didn’t want to arrive late and start panicking about not being able to find the venue so I gave myself plenty of time to get there. This allowed me to check out the room, ask any questions, meet my co-host and see what the vibe was like in the room. You also need to take into account the time it’ll take to get you miked up.

Address the audience

Even though this was an interview style chat it’s still really important to address the audience.

I’ve spent many hours watching various people on stage who spend the entire time avoiding eye contact with the people in the room and I was really conscious of this.

I spotted a couple of faces I recognised in the audience and used them as my ‘support’ (thanks Sarah Hall!).

Also, slow it down – I know I speak really fast when I’m excited or nervous, so I made the effort to slow down my speech and pause for breath.

Give yourself a break

Finally it’s important not to over analyse your session. It’s definitely good to get some feedback if you can but don’t beat yourself up.

I was worried that I might have offended someone with a couple of my comments, but Rachel Miller gave me some sound advice and said: “You can’t be everyone’s cup of tea and you can’t please everyone.”

As much as I’m a huge people pleaser this is very true – give yourself a break and a pat on the back!

Post author: Advita Patel.

Thank you Advita, congratulations on your first public speaking engagement. I hope it’s the first of many.

First published on the All Things IC blog 7 June 2018.

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