Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Today's News

I had a bit of a shock today.  I received a call from my boss notifying my that at an upcoming conference I would be expected
to do a full day of training for fellow employees.  Let me be clear. 
I'm expected to stand up in front of numerous people and talk to them.  For an entire day.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before but I'm an introvert. 
Extremely introverted in fact.  I have a really difficult time with
large groups of people.  I don't even like parties.  To put it bluntly, this news
terrified me.  When I get nervous and have to speak in front of people my speech tends to speed up.  To somewhere around the speed of light.  To make matters even worse I'm a fainter.  Seriously.  My first job out of
college I was very stressed about what would be expected of me.  I could
barely sleep or eat and when I got to the office the air conditioning had quit.  A couple hours into the day my new boss came to check up on me. I stood up to greet him
and tell him how the work was progressing and instead collapsed in a
heap at his feet. 

So after receiving this panic inducing call I decided to take myself for a
long long lunch hour walk.  I was walking along
lost in my own world when I looked up and saw a very pretty dog sitting in someone's driveway.  He was so still I wasn't sure he was alive at first.  A statue perhaps but then an ear twitched and suddenly I forgot all about that conference.

What a pretty dog sitting in that driveway!

I wonder who left him outside?

That's no dog!
Perhaps I'll insert a couple photos of this guy into my index cards
when I'm doing the lecture. Remind me to breath a little and forget
about my stress level.

 p.s. in all seriousness, I know some of my readers are teachers and
spend their days in front of a class. Are there any tips you would
recommend to someone who is doing a training session for the first


  1. I basically do this for a living, and trust me, you will be fine. When I first started out I used to make myself sick over it, but I have always found that the hours/days beforehand are always worse than the actual doing of it. And now here's my big secret, I have found, given that you are the speaker and they are the learners, it doesn't matter what the heck you say up there, because they are going to believe you! Knowing this a)makes it much less pressure and b)means you really can't say anything stupid because even if you do they won't know it! :)

    If you know your stuff (and I'm guessing your boss wouldn't be asking you if you didn't) just get up there and talk to them like you were talking to me about the stuff. Remember, you know the stuff, they don't know the stuff!

    Now I find myself getting organized in my head for these things as I'm exiting the plane!!! It does get much easier. I promise. You make it through your first 20 minutes and you'll be golden.

    You can do it :)

  2. No tips..nothing works for me...it terrifies me as well so I just don't do that sort of thing...but if I had to do it...I would be a shaking leaf and in fact, have been a shaking leaf.

    Beautiful fox...lovely ruff...lucky you, seeing him just when you need to.

    Maybe that's your charm...when you get up on the podium...think of that fox..and your walk..and the joy you felt seeing him and how brave he was...dare I say..be foxy?

  3. I am an introvert and for 34 years I had to do what you've been asked to do. (I even had to do it in front of hostile union reps).

    What helped me was the knowledge that I always knew more than my audience. You do too. You will always know more than they do. You are the expert. Just remember that, then breathe, smile, and know that you have knowledge that they need. Good luck.

  4. Ah, that's horrible - all you want to do is become part of the furniture. I am, believe it or not, quite a shy person - okay, maybe not quite so much these days, but I was painfully shy when I was younger.

    Then because of the way my job at the time evolved, I found I was expected to run workshops and training sessions.

    I used to find my mouth would be moving and words would be coming out, andtheywouldallruntogether, plus I didn't have a clue what I was saying because I was so nervous.

    Something I found helped me, was to pretend I was a confident speaker. I'd also think of someone I knew and admired for their confidence, so when standing in front of a room full of people, I pretended I was that person. Does that make sense? Is that what's known as projecting? I still occasionally do it now.

    If it's a possibility, try and inject some practical training - many people learn by doing rather than just reading/listening. It has the added bonus of them focussing on something else, rather than looking at you! Humour also helps too.

    I know it's easier said than done, but try not to get too stressed about it. You can do it. Seriously.

  5. I use to get really nervous in front of groups too. But I have had to talk to large groups so many times that over time it just got easier. I don't really have any eye opening advise but what other said...you are the expert and I am sure you will do a fabulous job. Try not to stress over it. Think about that awesome fox you saw...now that is a really cool find! Best of luck!!!

  6. I am a bit of an extrovert, so I really can not offer advice. But I am sure your boss sees something in you that you are not giving yourself enough credit for. You can be stronger than you think. Your fox was a great find and he did not shy away and he has a lot to be scared of.

  7. I once went to a workshop where the teacher started the day with an ice-breaker, asking each member of the audience to share something about themselves that not many people would expect. Then she told us about one of her hobbies, which obviously brought her a lot of joy, and we instantly connected with her.

  8. Marguerite I know just where you are coming from, I hate parties too and at family gatherings I would either end up with the children or in the kitchen helping, but, I am still amazed I did teach for a time in adult ed. as others have said you know your subject they are there to learn, I was told once when teaching to tell them once, repeat it, then tell them again, only each time make it a bit different, I found this good advice, hands on as has been suggested by others is always good, we learn by doing and it takes the focus off you,
    wishing you all good luck, you will survive and grow, Frances x
    p.s. love your fox,

  9. Thanks so much everyone for your wonderful words of encouragement. My first reaction to this news was thinking only about standing in front of people and talking. I hadn't even considered the teaching aspect of it. There were so many good ideas here.

    Jess thank you for reminding me that I'm the one in charge and I just have to explain to them like I would any other co-worker.

    Bren - I will definitely be thinking about that fox. He should be a good distraction

    Laurrie - I'll be repeating for the next month 'I'm the expert, I'm the expert'.

    Bub - that's exactly my fear, talking fast and running it all together with no clue of what I'm saying. I have started making notes to keep myself on track. I know what you're suggesting and I think it may help. Sometimes picturing yourself doing something well is the key to actually doing it. I have tried this with interviews and it helps.

    Karin - wasn't that fox beautiful! Sitting there pretty as you please. I wish I had a better camera with me.

    Donna - I hadn't thought about that fox being scared. Oddly I was worried because he was watching me very closely.

    b-a-g, that's a really lovely story. Often at meetings students are asked to share but the teacher does not. I like how this person decided to join in and share too.

    Frances - thank you that's great advice. as I was taking notes yesterday I found many of my issues with staff are just various forms of the same problem. Now that I'm aware of the central issue I can present it in several ways.

  10. Hi Marguerite,

    I used to almost die when I had to present papers in University. But then I ended up teaching ESL for over a year and going back to school and presenting more papers! I found the single best thing that helped me was practicing out-loud to myself beforehand. You feel so silly, but say the first 10 min or 15 min of what you are going to say, just say it all out-loud to yourself and start to build a mental picture of the order of "topics" in your head:
    For example:
    1) intro of native plants in victoria and how great they are in home gardens.
    2) use example of ribes sanguineum as great shrub, spring colour, hummingbirds love it.
    2) segway into native wildlife topic using hummingbirds example.
    3) pose scenario A and ask audience to contribute thoughts...

    Obviously each section could be broken down into many more details, but for me, thinking about my topics this way and practicing out-loud made me feel like I was reading a book and that book was my brain. It helped me soooo much and I got a lot of positive feedback from the audience.
    Also, slides or visuals really anchor you. If you can use them, or handouts, you will feel like you have a safety net.
    Good luck, you'll be great. Remember that the people you are teaching want you to be great and are your little cheerleading squad. They will help you make the day fun. Everyone wants fun in the end!! Bring goodies :)

  11. Oh Marguerite, I feel your pain. Being an introvert myself, public speaking isn't my favorite thing either. Best of luck to you as you prepare. You'll be great; remember to breath and don't lock your knees!

    Can't believe that fox didn't run away as you approached.

  12. ooooh lots of introverts here and guess what - I'm one too! Probably why I ended up in special ed! Though I did teach adult ed for 7 years too. About a year ago I did a live radio interview - I thought I wouldn't live through it. I was being interviewed about autism. I over-prepared,had sticky notes all over the place to remind me of stuff I wanted to say but within a minute of being asked the first question things just had a life of their own. Being passionate about the topic makes all the difference - not once did I refer to any of the info I had prepared and the time was up before I knew it.
    Think of your presentation in terms of having a conversation - there's give and take. Elicit comments from your audience - it gives you time to regroup.
    Lastly, here's one little tip I read years ago in a Reader's Digest and I ALWAYS think of it when I have to speak in front of a crowd - keep assessing yourself by asking this question - "am I ok so far?...yes I AM OK so far!" It's such a little thing but when I keep reminding myself than I'm ok, I start to believe it. Once I get rolling I actually become quite comfortable. It's the anticipation that gets ya, not the actual moment! Good luck!

  13. Glad you had your camera to capture that fox! Very interesting!

    Practice in front of people. Practice in front of a mirror. Videotape yourself and make changes accordingly. Slow down. Pronounce each word correctly. That'll keep you from speeding through. You'll get it. Put in some jokes so your audience will laugh and you can release some of your nervous tension. Good luck!

  14. Oh, I do love foxes! What a pleasant distraction. :)

    I too speed up when talking. I once delivered a paper at a university conference and blasted through my 20 min presentation in under 10 then couldn't answer any questions because my mind went blank! All I can say is, it does get better, breathe and smile. Your smile will help relax you - also smile at someone in the audience who looks like they are enjoying your presentation. They will smile back and that will help. Best of luck!

  15. I think remembering to breathe might be a good one, LOL.

    Way to go, sounds like we are two peas in a pod. I have the same problem, and now I get panic attacks.

    You will do fine....really, just think of the pretty little dog.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  16. SeaBlush - thank you for the wonderful advice. I had thought practicing might be a bit silly but I think you're right, working it all out in my head beforehand will save me from having to think when I'm so terribly nervous.

    Cat - I know!! He just sat there and watched me walk all the way up to him and then past. I had gone a good house or two past him before he finally decided to run across the road.

    Jane - that reminds me of something hubby says 'what's the worst that can happen?' When you think about it the worst thing is usually pretty minor. Asking if I'm okay makes me think along the same lines. Are you still breathing, yes, then it's all good. Thanks for the insight. (it's amazing how many introverts are bloggers! especially considering we only make up around 1/4 of the population)

    Holley - I just got a camera phone in the last month and I was so happy to have it with me! Technology thrills me sometimes.

    Ms.S - that's exactly the scenario I'm afraid of. I used to do piano recitals when I was a child and often I played pieces at about triple the rate of speed. I like the idea of finding one person to look at. I often find groups so distracting because I don't know where to focus my eyes.

    Jen - oh dear, panic attacks are quite serious. I'm just worried about staying conscious. okay, well that's serious too! Must bring a picture of the pretty dog to look at.

  17. Oh, Marguerite. I understand. I have done public speaking many times but I still feel the stress each time. I guess being an introvert contributes to the stress level. I see many people has offered you great advice. I am happy for you. I am also a little glad that there are so many of us introverts out here...who prefer to write than speak.

    Remember to breathe and relax your muscles.

  18. Just talk. When you share what you know, if flows. Be yourself. They're all afraid of speaking in public, too.

  19. Hi Marguerite, In my early years of teaching, I had that problem of talking too fast. I tried to slow it down, but found I couldn't. So when I saw that the class was scribbling furiously and having trouble keeping up, I would just repeat the last thing I had said. It works like a charm. Good luck. -Jean

  20. Yikes! Good luck with Marguerite, I'm sure it will be fine. I always found preparation was the key, if I'd gone over the material until I knew it inside out and backwards it gave me the confidence to start, and after that it all went OK. I'm sure you will be fine - but a pic of the dog on the side where you can see it when you glance at your notes couldn't hurt. Let us know how it goes!

  21. One- I'm amazed at how many introverts are coming forward. I guess writing appeals to us.

    NellJean - you're right. I forget that other people may sympathize with my position.

    Great advice Jean! I will definitely be keeping this in mind.

    Janet - Good thoughts. Although the conference is still quite some time away I've already started making notes! I too thought that if I knew the subject really well then hopefully I wouldn't be dumbstruck when I get up there.

  22. I am an introverted sessional lecturer. I guess I love to torture myself. Even after 10 years of teaching that first class gets me. I am almost sick before it. The first 30 seconds are the worst. Then I realize, as others have said, I am the expert and the group actually wants to learn what I know.

    It helps to start by outlining what I plan to do, then doing it, and summarizing what I did. Outlining my plan gets me through the terror so I can actually relax. I talk too fast as well and find it is helpful to allow the group to ask questions throughout. I also warn the group that I talk fast and ask them to get me to repeat anything they miss. My favorite strategy to determine if I am getting through to them is asking questions. You can get a sense for how it is going.

    You can do this. I know it.

  23. Introverts? Nell Jean calls us her invisible friends, known only via the keyboard. I me myself, I think blogging attracts introverts.

    I used to train librarians to use a new computer system. Seems weird looking back 15 years ago, now the technology daunts me a little. One to one suited me - addressing a group no thank you!

    Your boss has confidence in you, on the one hand, and the feisty fox as a talisman, on the other hand!

    What I meant to say - I see a birdbath in your future ;~)

  24. I am way behind in reading my blog list! And then I read this and thought, "Ooh, I'm glad this isn't me!"
    Let us know how you do!

    lol, got a laugh at the fox - he DOES look like a dog sitting by the van. The cheek of it!

  25. Cheryl - Thanks so much for the great advice. I've emailed you regarding the pictures.

    Diana - I agree with you! I hadn't really thought of it before now but I can definitely see how blogging attracts introverts. We have a lot to say but being able to think it out, review and revise it before putting it out in the world suits me much better than actually talking off the top of my head. hmmm, I like birdbaths...

    Kim - I loved your recent post about taking the writing course! I laughed and laughed. Glad to know I'm not the only one who has difficulties leaving the house.