It’s never too late to try something new.
When asked to attend the second C&IT International Forum as a speaker, I was a little apprehensive. These were unchartered waters for me; I love conversation of course, but the responsibility to add value and contribute meaningful content, was rather daunting. Let’s face it: most of us experience public speaking butterflies, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A little nervousness raises our level of performance but it’s important that the balance doesn’t tip from nerves to anxiety.
C&IT is a global brand with readers in the US, Europe and APAC. This exclusive forum is an opportunity for senior event professionals that work across the globe to share ideas and help each other come up with creative solutions and overcome challenges.
The forum took place in the cultural city of Madrid, with accommodation in the newly opened Pestana Plaza Mayor Hotel located in the central area of Madrid, in one of the oldest squares in Spain. The hotel is within walking distance of major monuments and tourist attractions which we enjoyed as part of an interactive walking tour. This was followed by tapas at Platea, a former cinema and now gourmet food hall on the Plaza de Colón in Madrid.
Throughout the event we addressed thought-provoking topics, which included destination choice, the impact of over-tourism on decision making and how to manage and justify costs when taking events abroad. I was asked to participate in the conversation exploring the value of face-to-face communication versus technological solutions.
Naturally, I had already formed lots of ideas and opinions on this topic; running an Event Production House it is imperative that I understand and am passionate about what we do and remain future-focused. I really care about events, I can speak about our industry from the heart and I want to share this with others. I also have an in-depth understanding of the human condition and what younger generations will be seeking as they enter the workplace.
Being prepared is the most important part of speaking well in public – I was organised, with clear, rehearsed points, I knew what I wanted to say but just before I took to the stage, my stomach was in knots.
So here are some simple public speaking tips that I used to settle the nerves:
- Breathing- I took a deep breath before I started talking. When presenting, a lot of people start talking right away out of nerves; finding your place before you begin shows you’re confident and in control.
- Speaking slowly- Although I could feel my heart beat quicken just before I started speaking, I made a conscious effort to speak slowly and stop myself from rushing my words.
- Stories- I used plain language, no jargon at all and included little anecdotal stories.
- Eye contact- I found a friendly face and made sure I was looking directly at it, connecting with individual people, rather than scanning and trying to look at everyone.
- Questions- I asked rhetorical questions - any kind of question engages people.
- Body language- I focused on my non-verbal behaviour and made sure I didn’t cross my arms, put my hands in my pockets or touch my face or hair; these are all things we do subconsciously when we’re nervous.
- Being me- I was myself and I smiled.
I am happy to say that I really enjoyed it. The opportunity to share my thoughts on the value of face-to-face events and where I predict we are headed in the future, was really rewarding. Overall the trip was great from start to finish, I loved interacting with so many interesting people and cultivating genuine relationships. I really appreciated the experience of putting myself in a different environment and challenging myself to try something new.