I’ve been doing a lot of public speaking lately. I just returned from the ARPA annual conference in Jasper where I facilitated an all day aboriginal recreation practitioner pre-conference session (mainly because the scheduled facilitator lost her voice!), facilitated our ACE story-telling session, and presented on ACE’s cultural activities. Throw participating in a flash mob organized by the ACE Dance team and I can easily say that it was an eventful 3 days!
Now I’m all ok with generally making a public spectacle of myself. Just ask anyone who knows me. Recently however, I have realized that when it does come down to the spectacle in question, I’m only really good with it on my own terms.
This realization has come to me twofold over the past week. My first hint at this came as we were preparing for the ACE flash mob at the ARPA conference. As we were rehearsing the group choreography, I felt a wee bit of anxiety creeping up. It wasn’t the dancing per say that I dreaded; it was dancing following prescribed steps. Then it hit me…hey – I don’t really like following the rules when it comes to public engagements.
I suppose that this isn’t the biggest surprise if I stop to think about it. I hated my high school graduation (it was a disaster best left out of print); I avoided both my undergraduate and graduate ceremonies in university, and happily eloped. Five people, including my husband, the justice of the peace, and myself attended our wedding.
This hatred of public speaking and rules is rearing its ugly head again as I prepare for yet another conference next week. I have been chosen as one of four young arts professionals who will speak as part of the ‘Emerging Speakers Series’ at the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) annual conference in Ottawa. I will be presenting on the ACE ARTS Tour that just concluded in the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation last week.
And here is the catch… the speed series is a petcha kutcha style presentation where the slides advance every 15s no matter what and you only have 5 minutes to make your point.
So how am I going to charm my way through this one? Where are the breaks for my oh so witty jokes? Thoughtful pauses… relaxed but confident air? Gah.
When it came down to actually doing the flash mob at the ARPA conference, I grinded my way through the choreographed section but oh did I rock the free-style bit. I can cut the rug like any pre-teen.
Noting my anxiety before the flash mob, one of the dancers named Michelle Greenwell taught me an affirmative saying: “I will be a good dancer because…” The ‘because’ is key in this statement as it allows the brain an opening to search for the answer, giving you confidence as reasons pop into your head.
So, even though the thought of a choreographed speed talk sends shivers down my spine: “I will give a decent speed talk because….”.
And to stack my ‘becauses’ I’m going to take some affirmative action. I will write a script, practice, practice, practice, and torture my husband with as many renditions as he can take. Because, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and nothing but good comes from stretching that safe, little comfort zone.
Wish me luck!