https://pds.blog.parliament.uk/2019/07/17/curiosity-pays-off/

Curiosity pays off 

Poster showing what curiosity means at PDS: learning, listening, and challenging to be the best at what we do

The last day in the series to explore PDS cultural values day is happening on 18 July and Carol Hindley has written about how curiosity led her to speak at a conference about her work for the first time. 

Curiosity pays off is what it said in my horoscope. You see, that week, I had challenged myself to speak at a public conference for the very first time. How spooky is that?

Back in January it had seemed so easy

Flushed with pride after the digital portfolio team presented about “Our caring team” at an all staff briefing, I saw a call for speakers for the 2019 PMO Conference. Pastoral care was a potential theme and it seemed to fit with what we’re doing here in PDS.

“What would it be like to speak in public?” I wondered. Would people be interested in what we’re doing in Parliament? Before I knew it, I’d drafted some text, reviewed it with my director and hit send.  The organisers wouldn’t want me to speak anyway, would they?

I soon heard back and they said they would love to have Parliament talk at the conference. A request to complete a delegate speaker form followed and then I needed a bio.  I’ve never written one of those so wondered what on earth to say. I decided to go with “...a normal PMO Manager”. And then I forgot all about the conference.

I had ages to prepare, right?

Then an email arrived telling me to prepare my presentation as it was only four weeks away. I had lots of ideas whirling around my head so spent a week trying to organise my thoughts. Then I had a lightbulb moment and asked for help from my network of trusted, confident speakers at work. They know who they are.

I listened to their constructive criticism and aimed to turn my washing machine of bright ideas into a cohesive and professional presentation. I would then have two weeks to fine tune my talk.

A complete rewrite of my presentation followed the initial session. The feedback and advice I received really helped formulate the ideas in my head and produced a much better presentation than if I had struggled with the content alone.

Then, by chance, I read a LinkedIn post from The Speaking Club about one of their students, which provided some sage advice:

Practice, practice, practice

It advised investing 15 hours of preparation time for a 30 minute talk. It also mentioned having “more butterflies than an entomologist” at the thought of public speaking which was something that I could relate to, and I still had two weeks to go before my talk.

Several practice sessions with numerous colleagues and team members followed. No matter how many times you run through your talk in your head, there’s nothing that can replace what you learn when you practice out loud.

The week before the big day, I received an introductory email from the compere of my session. “Please make sure that you’re wearing something that the lapel microphone and the battery pack can be fitted to” was the request. I then realised that I hadn’t given a moment’s consideration to what I was going to wear. A mad panic and last minute shopping trip to purchase something suitable ensued.

The night before the conference, I could barely sleep. I took inspiration from listening to Susan Boyle's version of “I dreamed a dream”, the Greatest Showman “This is me”, and watching Amy Cuddy’s TED talk about body language.

“Fake it until you make it”

Then the day itself arrived. I wanted to attend the whole of the conference so arrived nice and early at 8.30am. Not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. By now I was sick with nerves, my wrists were aching (a sure sign that I was getting stressed out) and the opening keynote speech was about being outside of your comfort zone. How ironic!

Two minutes before I was due in the breakout room, I stood in full Wonder Woman pose in the ladies' loos. It must have done some good as I experienced a moment of calm as I took my place on the podium.

I can honestly say I don’t really have much recollection about how the presentation went. I remember getting in a muddle with my notes at one point (I had gone with A4 pieces of paper, when postcards might have been a better option). But I kept going until I was done.

What it taught me

People were generally nice as they left the room, some said, “thanks for a great talk.” Two people came up to me and said it was the best session of the day. The best feeling came when a respected speaker told me my talk wasn’t just okay, it was good!

The first keynote speech of the day suggested that when you move outside your comfort zone, your brain never shrinks back to its original size. You can only grow if you’re willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new so don't be constrained by your attitude to risk.

So, now, according to my lucky stars... the sky’s the limit.

Read other posts about the cultural values in PDS. 

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