Public speaking is never easy. It can be daunting, intimidating, overwhelming. It is the type of skill that looks, feels, and sounds a little bit different every time you practice it. This idea simultaneously frightens and intrigues me. As strong as my desire (and fear) to practice and hone the skill of public speaking is, every time I find myself preparing for and giving a presentation, I remember just how challenging it can be. This was no different when I was asked to speak at the 2022 Scottish Women in Sport Conference, representing Actify, the company where I was currently working. I felt the butterflies and sweaty hands start in just seconds after saying yes.
The background – Finding a job
Let’s back-up – how did I get myself into this situation in the first place?
During my second semester of GLOCAL in Barcelona, I began to look for a job that could extend through the summer. I was primarily looking at the Glasgow Career Services database for different opportunities, and I soon stumbled upon Actify, a Glasgow-based social enterprise in the sports and physical activity sector looking to fill a marketing position. I applied and crossed my fingers, and by the end of March, I had started my job remotely with the company. The flexibility of working for a small company combined with an incredibly motivating and trusting group of colleagues created a wonderful working environment for me.
The lead-up – Preparing for the conference
After the semester in Barcelona ended, I moved back to Glasgow for the summer and continued working in a hybrid setting. This is where I was when, in mid-July, my manager asked me and my colleague, Robyn, to present and showcase the Actify Platform at the 2022 Scottish Women in Sport (SWIS) Conference. Neither of us had ever spoken at a conference before and were still fairly new to the company — let the nerves begin! However, it was the trust of our manager and the excitement of a new opportunity that pushed us past our initial fears and hesitations and convinced us to tackle this challenge.
Robyn and I met regularly during the six weeks leading up to the conference. They always say that preparation is key in any presentation, but it took us a long time to feel confident, or even comfortable, with the direction we were taking. We spent time researching, crafting our message, building an engaging presentation, thinking about our delivery — the usual. Finally, things were starting to come together. We had done the preparation; the next step was to fight the nerves.
Show time – The presentation
Finally! The day we had been waiting for had arrived. The conference was being held at the University of West Scotland in a beautiful modern building, inside a large lecture hall. We were the first presenters of the day and the tension was high — my legs wouldn’t stop bouncing and my hands were clammy. Thankfully, Robyn and I had each other — we reminded one another to breathe, manifest good vibes, and believe that we had this.
The minute the presentation began, the anxiety went away and we relaxed into the same routine that we had practiced many times before. I watched with enjoyment as the audience showed engagement, nodding along with our points, and laughing at the fun GIFs we had included on the slides. Before we knew it, the presentation was over, the questions were answered, and the audience erupted in applause as we walked back to our seats. We gave each other a small high-five as we sat down. We’d done it!
Reflecting – My key take-away
The presentation itself went incredibly well and I am proud of both of us for facing the challenge and our fears. I truly believe that the support we provided to each other and the support we received from the rest of our colleagues allowed us to push past our comfort zone and succeed at the conference. Of course, I also had many GLOCALs cheering me on in the background and congratulating me afterwards. I am incredibly grateful and honored to have had this unique opportunity.
Reflecting upon the experience now, I also find myself thinking a lot about the class presentations we must do for GLOCAL — and there are plenty of those. I am lucky and grateful that English is my native language, and I may not face the same challenges as many of my classmates who are presenting in their second or third language. However, I do know that I am inspired by everyone that I have seen present in the GLOCAL program, and I learn so much every time I listen to them share their ideas in class.
I’ve realized that one of the most important things about improving confidence in public speaking is surrounding yourself with encouraging, motivating, and inspiring people that you can trust to catch you when you fall, and most importantly, lift you up, push you forward, and cheer you on every step of the way.