Public Speaking

I recently was invited to participate in some training around public speaking by the Health Consumer’s Alliance. I’m a fairly new member of this organisation, and have been involved in a couple of projects that aim to improve services and/or reduce stigma for people living with a mental illness. The training was a great opportunity considering that I’ve found myself doing quite a lot of public speaking – in fact this month marks my very first public forum held at MIFSA last year. I wish I could say it’s become easier since then – it hasn’t really! The more personal the content the more nerves I get, but I have learned to use the nerves instead of trying to fight them off. So I went off to the training very interested to see if I could get something out of it. It was run by the very genial David Briggs, who was clearly in his element. I very much liked the individual approach – in that instead of teaching a bunch of rules, the aim was to help us find our own voice and the most effective presentation style for ourselves.

The most helpful feedback I got from the experience was to make sure I vary my tone of voice to make it clear when I’m reading poems, and clear when I’ve changed to sharing or educating. I’ve worked more on developing a conversational style of presenting that doesn’t sound too scripted or rehearsed. (and paradoxically, takes much more rehearsal!) So far, the feedback has been good. Here’s the lovely certificate I was given at the end to add to my resume:

I also attended a public speaking workshop run by Andrew Klein at a conference in Melbourne earlier this year. He did an incredible job of MC’ing the whole event, and he gave us some great advice – the two things I really took away from that were, never deliver a presentation anyone could do – ie tailor it specifically to you – he used the awesome talk at the conference by Mary O’Hagan – an amazing consumer advocate from New Zealand as an example of this. And the second was – wherever you can, make it personal. This bit of advice led to my last minute decision to include three poems in my talk at that event, which went over so well that if I’d been organised enough to have them published in a booklet, I could have sold a bunch of them!

I’m really enjoying this rather new role as a speaker and I’ve been reading a bit about presenting and watching people who present to learn from ones I like and the ones I don’t. 🙂 Training opportunities like these ones have been really interesting and given me a lot of encouragement to keep developing my skills in this area. It can be a really powerful way to connect with people to bring about good changes. I never considered doing this kind of role before but I’m surprised to find I’m developing a taste for it. So, may there be many more opportunities to come!

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