Yesterday I did something that scared me, I spoke out. We often have so much knowledge about a particular topic and want to share the things we know, but are too scared. It is easier for me to sit down in front of my computer and write about it, and then post it to my website. I am able to hide behind this screen, most of the people who read my material don’t know me personally. When I make the decision to verbally share my knowledge in a pursuit to educate others I become face to face with an audience. They are right in front of me and everything I say will have an impact on them.
A few weeks ago my district asked for presenters for our upcoming workshop. Knowing that this was something that I had been wanting to do, I filled out an application. About a week went by and I didn’t hear anything. Then one day, in the midst of heating up my lunch, running around to prepare for my next class with only 7 minutes left and knowing I had to scarf down my food, my principal walked into my room. She told me that the district was interested in my workshop on Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. I was thrilled that I had been picked, I had been chosen to spread my knowledge. First there was excitement, then the next thing that hit me was fear. I had to speak in front of my peers!
Public speaking is most people’s biggest fear. To be able to stand in front of a room full of your peers and speak to them is overwhelming to think about. It is important to discuss this topic and ways to overcome this fear. Here are some things I did to prepare myself for my workshop and to ensure I had a successful session with my audience, pushing through the fear.
Use what you know
As teachers we are constantly on stage, demanding our students attention and drawing them into what we have to say. A part of our job is public speaking to an audience with seats filled with children. While this is quite different, I can say that it was a great way to prepare myself to speak to my peers. I am on stage everyday with my students, therefore, I have developed tactics to get them to listen and pay attention. I have systems in place when it is time for students to have discussions or transition from one activity to the next. These simple tactics are what helped me during my workshop.
I was able to incorporate the things I use in my classroom on a daily basis with my audience. For example, at the beginning of my workshop I went over some expectations that would ensure we had a smooth session and open forum to hearing others’ ideas. Instead of creating a new anchor chart with new rules I directed everyone to the G.R.O.U.P.S poster I use in my room with my students. I explained that we were sitting in groups and would be working in groups, so these were the expectations. Also, to cue discussions in groups I used the count down system. When I counted down to zero they began talking, while this put smiles on some of their faces it ensured that the room was on task.
Using what I already know allowed more time to prep for my presentation and prepare meaningful material participants. Coming up with new material is unnecessary. If we do some reflection on what works with our students and in our daily classrooms, we will find that those same things will also work on adults.
Allow others to encourage you
We often shy away from people giving us compliments. It’s true, most people are uncomfortable when someone gives them a compliment. Instead of saying, “thank you” or smiling back the person who complimented us we like to respond with something negative such as, “No I didn’t” or “I really wasn’t that great” or “I actually look a little fat in this.” This is no way to treat ourselves!
Let others compliment and encourage us to be great. Have conversations with your love ones about your fears or feelings about presenting to an audience. Find someone you trust and value their opinion to share some of your material with. Getting feedback from others will help strengthen your presentation or give you new ideas. Allow those same people to lift you up and give you the encouragement you deserve. Inviting encouragement and praise into our lives is something that we all can work on, because we are typically our own worst critics. Its time to invite this positive energy into our lives, rather than turn our backs on it. In the end you will find that this energy, positivity and encouragement is what will get your through your presentation.
Let it go
The night before my workshop I took time for myself. I spent time with my family, read a book and did a little self-care routine. Rather than stay up all night practicing my speech and creating note cards, I let it all go and focused on myself. I found that this really helped me once I woke up the next morning. I was well rested and a few hours removed from my workshop materials. Now, I was ready to focus on my presentation and do some last minute finalizing. If I had done this the night before, I would have been exhausted and worn out the next morning. Instead of feeling fresh and renewed, I would have felt drained from overthinking thoughts. Using this tactic helped me to focus on other things that mattered and letting the presentation go.
When we let things go we create space to invite other things in. Letting go of expectations and worry the night before a presentation will allow you to rest your brain and focus on the present moment.
I can say that doing these three simple things are what helped me get through my first workshop -a presentation that I created from scratch, that I designed through my own research and knowledge. In the end I received something far greater than I could have imagined; praise, thoughtful words, celebration for my session and a feeling that I had never experienced. Maybe the thing you want to take a leap on isn’t public speaking or presenting something. Maybe it is something else. Regardless, you should do it and never look back. Its time to learn how to face our fear and do the things that scare us the most. Only then we will begin to change.