Earlier this year (slightly delayed new years wishes) I set the intention to secure at least one speaking opportunity this year. Why? Because I'm passionate about what I want to tell people about positive psychology and how it can improve lives and because it still scares me and I know, as a coach, that getting out of your comfort zone is the best thing you can do for growth.
So when I received an email through to my university address asking for people to give 15 minute talks about their research, I decided this was a bullet I needed to bite.
When you ask you shall receive but you must be willing to step outside your limit zone in some cases and have your eyes open to those opportunities.
I filled in the application form and sent it off with fingers crossed and classic thoughts about whether it was a "good enough" subject/piece of work etc. The inner critic gets us all!
About a week later I received an email to say they wanted to include my research and that I was to prepare a 15 minute talk with 5 minutes of questions. FIVE MINUTES OF QUESTIONS! Now, having been to the AICTP conference in Feb and seen first hand the dreaded questions that follow talks, especially when the audience are postgrad academics trained specifically to be critical for empirical reasons, I felt shit scared. Did I know my subject? Would they pull it all apart in one sentence? But faith stood by me and I reminded myself that I would be fine.
Bearing in mind I had to submit the paper 3 days after my dissertation was due it added to my dissertation stress and ironically I had booked myself my dream holiday to Japan on the same day for the end of my master's to celebrate finishing my dissertation and the whole gruelling 2 years of studying AND turning 30 the same week! So it was submit dissertation on the 14th, submit paper for the presentation and leave for Japan on the 17th, return on the 29th and present on the 1st!
With my mind saying, don't forget you'll be really jetlagged and tired the 30th and 31st and still on the 1st.
Oh add into the mix the birthday party I decided to have for my 30th which was an incredible boat party on the River Thames playing my favourite music, breakbeat, in the evening after the symposium! Which required organising friends, tickets and transport home.
It's funny isn't it... are you one of those people who seems to be able to manage a thousand things really well and when you have nothing on, you can't even do the laundry?! I am.
So dissertation, symposium paper and presentation and what questions are they going to ask? And Japan and does Japan have deadly diseases and do I need a visa and shit I forgot to add keywords to my disseration and omg the journey from the hotel in japan to our house in Sussex took 25 hours i'm so tired and omg I dont have Word I use a chromebook I can't send the paper in the correct format and shit the boat party organisers are saying be there at 5.30pm! But shit the symposium doesnt finish 'til 4.30pm and it's 2 hours away! And shit the symposium starts at 9.30am and its 3.5 hours away from my house! That means....google map.... leaving at FOUR FIFTEEEN AM?! I mean with the jetlag we will probably be wide awake then but we will be asleep at 5.30pm! Will have to get a million cans of red bull! Get the last train home or stay in London? Well we cant check into an Airbnb, we have no time so it would mean a hotel with 24 hour reception...on a Saturday night in London...the cheapest available is...£200!!! Last train home it is then!
Preparing the presentation was a struggle because due to the jet lag, at 4pm it became midnight in our bodies and my brain couldn't function but also because of the jetlag (gonna just use that excuse) I didn't have the energy to start work on it 'til about 1pm! What with unpacking, getting home, and not exactly jumping to it after the mammoth 65 page (including appendix) 8000 word dissertation I had submitted 2 weeks prior.
I prepared the best jetlagged presentation I could, bursting out laughing every time I tried to practise-present it to my incredibly patient boyfriend and sent it off by the 5pm-the-night-before deadline so they could collate the slides.
As positive psychology is partly about flourishing and self care I decided to compromise and get to the symposium for half time, to leave our house at the more acceptable time of 8.30am.
On arrival I was nervous but relied on a few key calming tricks:
-Deep breathing before hand for at least 30 seconds
-Remembering a group of people at a Positive Psychology conference are most likely to be some of the most compassionate people in the country so failing in front of them would only be met by pure love. This is the same for any presentation - the audience want you to succeed. Remember that
-Taking advice from physics: from the perspective of a star or planet billions of light years away, everything has already happened! So this talk has already happened so I have nothing to worry about. This helps in any difficult situation and really helped when I presented to 120 university students last year.
- I know my subject better than anyone as it's my research that I've lived, breathed and become over the last 6 months. It's integral to me as it was created by me.
-I can always answer, "I don't know" we are all human and allowed to not know everything.
On the day, it went really well. Questions were easy. A mad rush of a day though: we literally got there, had lunch, presented, watched one or two other talks then ran (in heels) straight back the way we came through London, which, by the way, was a rail replacement bus then a train, then a tube to get to the boat party area by 5pm (to be safe) which didn't in fact leave til 7pm anyway!
Partied until midnight and then got the last train home (which my friend calls "The drunk tank" as it's always packed full of goblins of the night, including us) which had no seats so we stood up for an hour and a half then when we finally got a seat we fell straight to sleep and woke up after our stop meaning we had to get a taxi home! Oh lol.
Key learnings from this experience:
- You can do it all.
- You can't do it all. Prepare early.
- Positive Psychology is such an interesting and broad topic. I listened to a talk on Skychology (Paul Conway check him out) and about self identity and Dante's inferno...
- Breakbeat is still my favourite music.
- Discomfort causes growth, I've agreed to speak again at a talk on July 10th! The more you do something the easier it is.
Thanks for reading.
Lots of love,