In February I was following the WomenEd event as it took place in my academy. Sadly, due to personal reasons, I couldn’t be there but I was keeping a constant eye on the Twitter feed. Summer Turner had recommended a book and the tweets were coming through thick and fast. The book was Shonda Rhimes ‘A year of yes.’ Always one for a book recommendation, I ordered it and devoured it across a week in Sweden. The premise of the book was that Shonda seemingly never said yes to anything. When her sister challenged her about this, she decided that for one year she would say yes to every request made of her. Within the first few chapters it was apparent that Shonda had a phobia of public speaking. I connected with this straight away. I am totally phobic of public speaking. I will do anything to get out of it. I cry. I am sick. I hate it. But after reading this book, I decided to pledge to myself that for a year I would say yes. And so I did. I signed up to talk at the Leeds conference organised by Anne Williams, at Pedagoo Hampshire organised by Martyn Reah and at WomenEd.
Today was the most terrifying. I only finished putting my presentation together last night. Every night that I came home from school this week, I promised myself I would get it done only to find myself retiring to bed at 7.30pm, exhausted by the day. I couldn’t quite get my thoughts down on to the page or into a logical order and I certainly wasn’t quite sure what to say – what to include and what to abandon. I nearly bailed – twice. It was only out of loyalty to Hannah that I didn’t bail earlier in the week. This morning, I cried and I was sick – paralysed by fear. And then on the train, whilst putting the finishing touches together on my presentation, I thought to myself that it is exactly people like me who need to do this. As an introverted leader, I squirrel away in the background. But I squirrel away hard and I have had impact where I work and schools prior to my current one. Having worked in two inadequate / RI schools on the journey to good, I’m confident in the things that are needed and the things that work. And that is when I realised that people like me, people who are phobic, who feel the fear need to stand up more and more and find their voice because we all have something to offer. So I got to Reading.
I hid in the corner and surreptitiously went to check who had signed up for my session every now and then. I felt sick and although I was meeting and chatting to lots of people my mind couldn’t focus.
And then it was time. I took a deep breath and a sip of my water – a good confidant when presenting and did it. I looked out to the sea of faces to see whether my presentation was going ok for them and then as quickly as it had started, it finished.
After a presentation, there is a sense of release, like all the pent up worry and tension and nervousness and fear that you have been holding onto all week comes flooding out. Mainly though I am relieved that I have got through it and that now I can relax and enjoy my day.
Today I was really lucky. I had a great crowd. Many of them came up to me afterwards to thank me and reassure me my session was great. It’s hard to fathom that something that terrifies you as much can actually be good but people seemed to enjoy it.
So with no further talks planned, my year is complete. Has my phobia gone? No. Will I present again? I don’t know. But I am proud that for nearly a year, I said yes and that despite being terrified, I did it. I am 10% braver.
Thank you to Anne Williams, Martyn Reah and WomenEd for having the confidence in me.