The past few months have been an especially busy time for us at CCT (which is saying something!) but my amazing team gave me their undivided attention so I could practice my speech and put into practice all the new techniques Antony had given me. My team also helped to double and triple check all the facts in my talk (after I do my talk on the 25th of May – we’ll be posting up a reference sheet to all the research papers and studies that I refer to in the talk for anyone who wants to find out more) and they helped me put together the accompanying slides.
Despite all the practice, I was a tad nervous when I returned to Sydney in late April for the second-to-last session with Antony… Had I remembered everything he taught me?
By nature, I am a super fast talker. My parents hate it, and people of their generation do sometimes find it hard to keep up with me – but, I’m a busy person, with a lot to get through in a day, and so that’s the pace I’ve become accustomed to! However, in our sessions Antony has taught me some valuable lessons about effective communication…
People generally find slower speech to be more intelligible and will remember more of what you say if you allow them time to process and digest the information you’re trying to convey. And after all, as Antony said, this TEDx talk is not for me… It’s for the purpose of raising awareness about a crisis affecting the lives of millions of children. So, even though I was more comfortable speaking at a million miles an hour – if I wanted to be effective, I’d have to learn to slooooow down.
He showed me how to do that with the use of appropriate pauses, by being careful to clearly enunciate all my words, and by using emphasis on certain words while using a variety of tone and inflection in each sentence. These techniques would not only help me to slow down, it would ensure my audience was engaged and my messages would have maximum impact.
The other amazing thing that happened when I began utilizing these techniques was that instead of trying to supress all the nervous energy I had while public speaking, I was able to channel it into the performance and the delivery. Instead of fighting the nerves, suddenly all that energy was working in my favour!
In the past, when I delivered a speech, I’d often finish it and have to ask someone “What did I say? Was it OK?” Anyone who has a fear of public speaking will be familiar with the strange phenomenon of the disconnect between brain and mouth when delivering a speech, but another great thing about focusing on the performance and delivery of the speech is that it forces me to be in the moment and stay connected to the messages I’m delivering.
When I went back to the second-last session at NIDA I was relieved to find that all the techniques Antony had given me had definitely stuck. And, perhaps more importantly – the confidence that had developed along with them was still there too! We ran through the speech a couple of times, with the accompanying slides and made a few minor adjustments in preparation for a full rehearsal in NIDA’s Parade Theatre the following week.
In that week I also performed the speech for the TEDx Sydney curators. They were delighted with the results of all the work I’d put in. They also let me know that I was going to be the very first speaker to kick off TEDx Sydney 2016! It was great to have such a strong vote of confidence from the amazing TED curators.
The dress rehearsal on the NIDA stage for family and friends went really well and I wasn’t even a little bit nervous! I did get a little bit emotional after I finished the speech though when thanking Antony for everything he’d done for me – it’s an incredible feeling to conquer a fear. Just one week away from TEDx Sydney, I now can’t wait to finally step out on that stage at the Sydney Opera House.
When I do take to the stage, what will be in my mind is the opportunity I have to give a voice to the 8 million children around the world separated from families and growing up in institutions. I will take everything Antony has taught me to ensure that the audience¬ – the 5000 or so at the Sydney Opera House and everyone listening online – walk away armed with the knowledge and information they need to be a part of the solution and help end the unnecessary institutionalisation of vulnerable children.
For more information about NIDA, head to www.corporate.nida.edu.au.