Friday, February 28, 2014

Ready or Not...

One week from today, actually one week from RIGHT THIS SECOND I will be up in front of a room including at least three PhD's that I deeply respect defending my capstone project.

You guys, I am terrified.  Like, my palms are sweating right now THINKING about it.  Seriously.  And it isn't about the research project itself.  I am beyond proud of the work I have done, which is on three specific positive parenting practices (reading to children, engaging in storytelling or singing, and having family meals) and their impact on children's risk of developmental, social, or behavioral delays.  I could actually write for hours on how important I think this research is and the impact I believe it could have on families.  I think it's important, and worth sharing. I really do. 

But this public speaking bit..the part where I get up in front of a group of my peers and mentors and present my findings...then when I stand there and answer questions about it... it sounds like my worst nightmare.  Or, my worst nightmare would be if I had to SING it, but still.  It's really close to my worst nightmare. 

I mentioned on here the other day I was also going to present my findings as a poster presentation at a research conference later in the month... but I started getting worried about that too.  So much in fact that I was pretty sure I was going to pull my abstract and NOT do that.  Nope.  There were lots of good reasons to NOT do that.  It was adding something else to my plate.... I am having issues with my endo and not feeling well..we will be in t-ball season...

excuses, excuses, excuses.

I got an email from my capstone chair telling me I should submit my capstone to the conference.  She had no idea I had already decided to do it, then talked myself out of it.  She just read my project and felt it was good enough to be at the conference. And somehow that email reset my way of thinking.  I am back on board with presenting at the conference.  I am trying to get on board with 'presenting' in general.

I love research.  I love being the person who asks a question and then fights to find the best possible answer.  I love the idea that through research I have the power to make a difference in so many people lives.  And if I want to do this, I need to get past my fear of standing by my work.  I need to let go of my (sort of crippling) fear of public speaking and find the confidence I envy in so many other great speakers.  I need to work on being proud to share what I have done, and not just want to email it out so people can read it while I hide behind my keyboard and wait for their emailed reply.

I am good at this research thing.  I think I could be great at this someday.  But step one in getting better is standing up and explaining it, justifying it, and being proud of it.

I think I can do it.  Actually I know I can.  And in one week I will.

If you have any public speaking advice for someone who forgets to breath in front of crowds, please send it my way!



  1. Public speaking doesn't bother me much anymore... I studied German and Russian at uni, where speaking *in a foreign language* in front of a group of people was a pretty standard day's work. My oral exams were marked not only on my language skills but the way I presented myself. I put my ease with job interviews and the fact I could pretty much talk to anyone about anything these days down to the 4 years I spent doing that... Am I confident in my language abilities? No way! But speaking in English, that I can do ;)

    Don't get me wrong, I still get a little breathless and speak a bit too fast at times, but I just focus on the fact that I can do it because I've done it before and the feeling you get after you've done it is much better than the feeling you get when you wimp out and then regret not speaking up/taking an opportunity. But this comes with practice and experience, and those first few times you do it are terrifying, I know - especially if it is something you care about so much!!

    My advice to you is to know it's okay to be terrified. Go through your presentation in your mind and try to think what kind of questions you may be asked, but don't obsess over it. You can go over it so many times you have it perfect and then if one tiny thing doesn't go right on the day you'll feel let down... if you go in knowing that you know your stuff and it doesn't really matter if you stumble over a couple of words or take a moment to think about an answer before saying it, then you'll be much more prepared than if you try to have all your answers perfect before going into it.

    If you find yourself speeding along, your heart racing, and your mind working so fast it is stumbling over itself, then just take a moment to breathe. Try to focus on speaking slowly and clearly rather than rushing through it.

    You may also find it helpful to think that Missy is cheering you on :) I used to find it reassuring to know that loved ones would be so proud of me facing my fears and doing it anyway. Did I mention that I used to be so terrified that I wouldn't even go to the local takeaway without our order written down as I didn't want to say it out loud? Yep... I was truly that kid who sat quietly in the corner and couldn't do a thing on her own. And then I went abroad and had to just get on with it. Terrifying but the best thing I ever did...

    You get through these two events and you'll begin to know just how much you can do!! Until you push yourself beyond your comfort zone you never know how much you are actually capable of achieving. One day, I know you'll look back on this and remember how scared you were but how amazing it is that you took that step and started a whole new adventure!

    Oodles of good luck coming your way - you can do it!!

    1. Such great advice! Thank you! The part where you mentioned that I shouldn't obsess over like exactly memorizing it because if I mess up then I will freak out... I hadn't thought of that but you are exactly right! I have been practicing and practicing, but it really could have thrown me if I messed up early on and just lost my way. It's better to think of it as "I know this in detail, it isn't just memorized.."

      You are amazing! xo

  2. I just heard about a study on the radio that found people actually do better with public speaking if they pump themselves up and get excited rather than trying to calm themselves down. Thought that was interesting. ..

  3. I would love (a million times over) to read your research project after you rock your presentation. :) If you would be willing to share. The more you talk about it, the more interested I am. Good luck!

  4. I was terrified the first time I got up in front of a class but I assure you it does get better. You will be scared and nervous and shaky but you know your stuff and it will be fine. The more you talk, the more confident you will begin to feel so try to mellow out. I PROMISE it will be fine. If someone asks you something and you can't instantly think of the answer, RELAX, you do know the answer and it will come to you. The "brain freeze" that you feel WILL pass. You know your stuff and that's the key. Been there, done that. Love you.