I entered a public speaking competition quite recently. I have always loved performing in front of people. I discovered my passion for performing back in primary school when I first performed in a school play as Fagin from Oliver. (Imagine an 11-year-old having to sing whilst wearing an enormous oversized coat with loads of pockets and handkerchiefs. It looked funnier than it sounds.)
Even though I have performed and stood on a stage in front of people before this public speaking competition was a completely different and new experience for me. I was excited to get stuck into this new challenge and I love a bit of healthy competition. I find that competition in the right form makes me excel and helps me to improve myself.
I was not performing in this competition by myself however. This competition was open to pairs. I was entering with my good friend R who had first approached me about this competition.
Though I have been close friends with R, I had never worked with R before as closely as I had during this experience. We spent several hours together writing and practicing performing our speech. What surprised me the most, and I know that she felt the same way, was how in sync we became with each other. Often one of us would voice a suggestion or thought and then the other would say “I was literally just thinking that”. It got to the point of being scary to see how in tune our thought process became during the process of writing this speech. But it showed me what a good team we made to tackle this challenge together.
On the day of the competition I felt nervous but it was good nerves. It was eustress rather than distress. Eustress is good stress that is beneficial and makes you productive, whereas distress is bad stress that impacts on you in a negative way. This is something I learnt in 1st year, one of the few things I remember from first year to be honest (sorry, sometimes I just can’t control my inner medic).
I had in my mind that I wanted to come across as confident and relaxed. This is a technique that I was once taught in a public speaking seminar. Whatever way it is that you would like to come across then you should hold that word in the back of your mind as you deliver your speech or presentation, you can read more about this in my previous blog Influencing, Impacting, Inspiring.
We were the last group to deliver our speech and up to that point I did feel very relaxed. The second I stood up there though I felt anything but relaxed. I had never experienced nerves to this magnitude ever before. My legs were shaking and felt like jelly, which was a new experience for me. I guess it was natural to feel this way since I was talking to a massive room full of senior consultants and we were being judged. The nerves showed me just how much I really wanted to win this competition as well.
Having finished delivering our speech several people came up to me to congratulate us on our performance, more so than the other teams. They commented that we both came across as confident and very engaging. One gent even said that he thought we deserved to win. This made me feel quietly confident but I did not want to assume anything.
As you have probably guessed from the title we did not win but we did come runners-up. We were disappointed, naturally, but we knew we had tried our best and the duo who had won it were definitely worthy winners who had put up a good fight.
Ultimately I had an amazing time and learnt some valuable skills and lessons in participating in this competition. I definitely felt a little bit like a duck out of water but I love new experiences and this has definitely helped me to grow as a person.
This week I would like to leave you all with a few tips on dealing with nerves. These are all things I do to deal with my nerves.
1. Preparation is key.
2. Visualise yourself in the position you want to be in, whether that’s as the winner or otherwise.
3. Your biggest enemy is your own mind. Keep telling yourself something and eventually you’ll believe it. Your mind is easy to trick so if you keep telling yourself you’re excited then you will feel excited.
4. I believe a lot in the power of positive thought, so stay positive!
5. People don’t know that you’re nervous unless you show it. There’s a lesson that one of the consultants taught me last year which is: “Fake it until you make it”. Act confident even if you don’t feel it and people will think that you’re a pro at this (kind of like what I did by holding the word confident in the back of my mind).
Take home message of the blog:
“Venus told me the other day that champions don’t get nervous in tight situations. That really helped me a lot. I decided I shouldn’t get nervous and just do the best I can.”
― Serena Williams
Everybody is different but I definitely disagree with Serena Williams. Nerves demonstrate that you care about what you are doing and it makes you work towards achieving your goal. One of my favourite comedic actors sums up my feelings about nervousness perfectly:
“I think it’s glorious to be nervous. Being nervous is great! How often do we get nervous on a daily basis? Being slightly nervous means you care, and you’re alive, and you’re taking some kind of risk. Hooray for being nervous! A friend told me to substitute the word ‘excitement’ for ‘nervous’. That way you acknowledge the physical feelings without putting a negative spin on things. So to answer your question, sometimes I still get so excited about ‘Update’ that I want to throw up”
― Amy Poehler
Here are some links that I found useful and informative:
Eustress and Distress: http://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/stress-reduction/eustress-vs-distress
Dealing with nervousness: http://www.positivityblog.com/index.php/2014/11/05/overcome-nervousness/
I’d like to thank all my friends and the doctors for their help with preparing for this competition. To mention a few people who really helped us a lot: GC, GF, SP, RL, AI, SS and the doctors who helped us the most.